County news December 3, 2013

Bradshaw revives franchise debate


Keith Bradshaw, the former MCC chief executive, believes the ECB and the counties will have to revisit the concept of a Twenty20 franchise competition in the future, despite twice shutting down efforts to herald an equivalent of the IPL and BBL in England.

In 2008 and 2010 Bradshaw was at the centre of proposals to create a domestic T20 tournament that transcended the old county model, creating eight to 10 franchise teams to contest the title in a tighter format, rather than all the traditional 18 counties.

Now overseeing the South Australian Cricket Association, including the Adelaide Strikers in the BBL, Bradshaw told ESPNcricinfo he still felt strongly that the franchise concept would provide a better avenue for T20 in England, and draw new supporters to a game that is being increasingly marginalised by other sports and pursuits in the British Isles.

"I always felt it was something that could have had huge benefit for English cricket," Bradshaw said ahead of the Adelaide Ashes Test. "At the time too I felt, particularly with David Stewart, then Surrey chairman, we were particularly concerned about losing our elite English players to the IPL and the various T20 leagues we thought would pop up.

"So we wanted to create something that rivalled if not bettered the IPL, so players would want to stay in the UK and attract people there. I just felt at the time, as did David, that an 18-team competition wasn't delivering the potential of T20 cricket. It didn't get up, but I understand the concept is being looked at again.

"When I was around they used to call it 'the F-word', a dirty word, but if you look at the success of the BBL in Australia, English cricket has massive potential. There have been some changes, they're bringing in the Friday night games, so it will be a watching brief to see how that goes."

T20 in England has undergone various tweaks since it was launched as the world's first T20 tournament in 2003. Next season, a new NatWest T20 Blast features 14 group stage matches spread across three months with the majority of matches scheduled for Friday nights. The format is set to remain until at least 2017.

Team identities have become a source of contention in the shortest format. Team nicknames have been adopted, changed and in several cases now dropped altogether. But Warwickshire have taken the dramatic step of renaming their T20 side the Birmingham Bears.

Bradshaw said that while he had accepted the opposition of the counties and elements of the ECB, he expressed regret that the ideas of the former IPL supremo Lalit Modi in particular were not more closely examined by those in power.

"It's like playing the game and the spirit of cricket, you accept the umpire's decision and you move on," Bradshaw said. "I'll always think that was the best model for English cricket at the time. We spoke to Lalit Modi about the IPL in terms of his experience and his learnings about what worked and what didn't.

"He really was an amazing innovator, I think he was a genius in many ways, and we certainly tried to use what were the best parts of the IPL model but recognising that the English model had to be different. It wasn't a straight take from the IPL at all, it was a different model."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jason on December 5, 2013, 6:11 GMT

    @Ed Seabourne, The issue with a franchised T20 system is that 9 counties would lose out on thier slice of the pie, you also reduce the pool of T20 players by 50%.

    Finally you have the fans of counties like Somerset, Sussex, Essex, Worcs, Kent etc having to change allegiances to the new franchises, which is like asking Everton Fans to support Liverpool, or Tottenham fans to support Arsenal.

  • Dummy4 on December 4, 2013, 18:53 GMT

    OK, so having done some research I'm wrong in my memory that the counties wanted to stay with a 50 over competition. I suppose I'm mixing up the views of the paying public and the counties they support. I'm also now totally confused. According to an article I found, the ECB themselves actually wanted to stay with the 50-over competition but the counties won the battle to reduce it to 40 overs. Now that we've gone back to 50 overs, it was the Morgan Review which quote 'ignored the pleas of the counties' and advised the ECB to change back to 50 overs which they've now done. It seems one year the ECB is listening to what the counties want and the next they aren't. However from reading all this, it does seem as though if a similar review were conducted and a franchise T20 competition was found to be financially favourable, the counties would be powerless to stop it, just as they were with 50 over cricket.

  • Bludging on December 4, 2013, 11:41 GMT

    Was hoping this article would have someone from Australia saying the franchise system should be closed down and go back to the state teams.

    England has done the intelligent thing by keeping the clubs. If you remove that, you just scuttle history for the sake of the marketing department and giving them something to do.

  • Jason on December 4, 2013, 9:30 GMT

    @Ed Seabourne, I think it is you who does not know how the english system is set up. The ECB is owed and goverened by the representitives of the 38 counties (18 major, and 20 minor).

    The ECB is responsible for the commercial aspects of the game and securing sponsorship, as a result it has to have in place the various formats for negotiating deals with media companies, it should also be noted that a majority of clubs where in favour of dropping 50 over games and keeping the 40 over format as well as the current previous structures in T20.

  • Jason on December 4, 2013, 9:18 GMT

    The problem that the grounds face is that they are often competing with Football for fans if there is a major tournament on, next year T20 crowds will drop during the WC, and again in 2016 when its the Euro championship.

    The other point is that the franchise system will actually remove money from the game and the counties that dont get a franchise, as the chances are they will be awarded to the Main Test grounds (Middlesex, Surrey, Yorks, Notts, Lancs, Durham, Gamorgan, Hamps,Warks), that leaves little room for the other 9 counties who will lose out financially unless they are bought off with a guaranteed revenue stream which wont please franchise ownersas they are only interested in maximising thier revenue.

  • Dummy4 on December 3, 2013, 23:10 GMT

    @Englishfan, don't worry @200ondebut clearly doesn't know what he's talking about if he thinks 'the setup is run by the counties'. If that were the case then the T20 competition wouldn't have been shortened a couple of years ago, we'd never have gone from 50 to 40 overs at all, and England players would actually be allowed to play for their counties when not playing for the national side. The scheduling and the funding all comes centrally from the ECB, and the counties can do very little to change it.

  • Richard on December 3, 2013, 22:55 GMT

    Hmm, Bradshaw... too much the moderniser.... departed England prematurely in less than clear circumstances, leaving some at Lord's chuntering and scoffing. When the destruction of Adelaide Oval is exposed on telly on Thursday, all of England will be glad he wasn't allowed to vandalize Lord's in the same manner.

  • Dummy4 on December 3, 2013, 22:35 GMT

    I'm not a 20/20 fan but would love to see less teams of greater quality, I live in Cheshire so which County should I support? Lancs, why? if there was a franchise for the North West then I would be happy to support them, cricket isn't just about the County fans.

  • Dummy4 on December 3, 2013, 22:34 GMT

    Keith's proposals at the time made total sense and they still do. The County game is sustained only by handouts from the ECB paid for by the highest cost international tickets in the world and unaffordable live TV coverage. Keith was frustrated by the unmoving conservatism and insularity of cricket's county and ECB administrators. One day change will come but don't hold your breath.

  • Dummy4 on December 3, 2013, 22:33 GMT

    English cricket, unlike every other country in the world, gets decent attendances for first class matches and each county has a dedicated set of supporters. We don't need franchise cricket and all the overkill/spot fixing that have already beset the IPL and BPL. Friday nights for much of the season will be good. Oh and where does the author get the statement 'a game that is being increasingly marginalised by author sports and pursuits in the British isles' from? Did he not see the attendance at last summer's Ashes or the success of the champions trophy? Not to mention record attendances at several counties. English cricket is in the best state it's been for years, all we need is a win in Adelaide this week.

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