County news February 26, 2016

City T20 back on cards as county chiefs get radical

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Jos Buttler's talents could be best exploited in a streamlined competition based around school holidays © Getty Images

A city-based T20 competition could be back on the agenda in England and Wales after a group of county chief executives called upon their colleagues to embrace more radical change.

It had been presumed that the meeting of the county chief executives at Trent Bridge on Thursday would simply wave through a raft of proposals to the structure of county cricket that might be termed a compromise between those who want city-based T20 and those who want no change. Those proposals were understood to include introducing promotion and relegation in domestic T20 cricket and a reduced County Championship fixture list with an eight-team top division and 10-team bottom division. The changes would have been implemented for the 2017 season and would last until the current TV deal expires at the end of 2019.

But there was a feeling from some at the meeting - not least the MCC chief executive, Derek Brewer - that the proposals were not radical enough. Brewer argued that, with Test revenues expected to come under strain in the next few years, it was essential to exploit the global appeal of the T20 format. English cricket, he said, was missing an opportunity by failing to implement a streamlined, city-based competition in a school holidays window.

Others present felt that the positives of moving to two divisions, with broadcasters focusing on the top tier, might be outweighed by the threat of losing lucrative local derby matches - such as Yorkshire's and Lancashire's Roses fixtures, which are understood to be worth £300,000 per game.

As a result, the counties asked for more clarity on the financial repercussions of each of their options. With some of the larger, Test-hosting counties anxious about their debt issues, the mood for change among the chief executives does appear to be growing. Warwickshire, Hampshire and Glamorgan are among those counties apparently now in favour of a city-based competition.

Many of the county chairmen, and most of those in executive positions at the ECB, are already convinced of the benefits of a city-based T20 competition along the lines of Australia's Big Bash League. It has, until now, been the chief executives who resisted a move in that direction with many of them citing substantial growth in attendances and revenues since the NatWest Blast was scheduled on a more predictable basis and pointing out that the quality of overseas players - both in terms of talent and marketability - involved in the 2015 competition was exceptionally high.

But if evidence can be produced ahead of the next county chairmen's meeting on March 7, and the ECB board meeting that follows it, that a move to a city-based competition will financially benefit all the counties, it remains just about possible that it could yet be introduced in 2017.

Time is an issue. The ECB are adamant that agreement must be reached before the season so that teams go into the campaigns knowing what the outcomes could be. For example, the finishing positions in this year's NatWest Blast would decide which divisions teams would be in next year.

It remains likely that the compromise solution - a two-division T20 competition involving all 18 counties with teams financially compensated for a lack of derby games - will be ratified, but it does seem that resistance to more radical change is crumbling.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  •   Kenneth Lloyd on February 29, 2016, 21:38 GMT

    I do think a four/ six week T20 set up in july/aug would be the way to go, but not at the expense of less first class games and not at the expense of losing a county name and tradition. Two leagues with promotion and relegation and each side allowed to have half a dozen overseas players would be my way of keeping the crowds rolling in and the players happy. The other alternative would be four groups of five, (invite Ireland and Scotland) play home and away. Top two into quarter finals and then the usual semi and final day.

  • JohnMitchell on February 29, 2016, 15:41 GMT

    Stop playing T20 at the very venues where it's been most successful, the packed grounds at Hove, Taunton and Chelmsford? Take away the very fixtures that give counties the most chance of financial sustainability? Make cricket less accessible to everyone outside a few big cities? Tear up loyalties passed from grandfather to grandson over 125 years to create entirely artificial brands? Emulate the not-very-profitable Big Bash and the scandal-tainted IPL? Overpay mediocre overseas mercenaries? Give a large share of any remaining profit to commercial investors, draining it out of cricket?

  • JG2704 on February 29, 2016, 10:23 GMT

    You just have to read the comms below and on other threads to see what the English fans think. Yes it has worked in other countries but that does not mean it would work in the UK and it's not just about "not embracing it" there are a whole load of reasons inc the geography etc. I'm sure the guys at BBL and IPL did some sort of research before starting up these leagues so why don't our chiefs do the same and canvass opinion from those who attend matches? Maybe because the results won't be to their liking? If they are going to do it they should reward the counties with the best T20 attendances over the years. But generally in life any sort of businesses etc naturally expand when they have got too big for the premises they are using - that's surely just common sense. This seems to me like a government/council type decision. Still this is a group of buffoons who somehow thinks that giving the away side in CC the automatic toss will solve our issues with producing a quality spinner?

  • py0alb on February 29, 2016, 9:42 GMT

    So let me get this straight... in order to increase the spectators, they're going to play half the games in half the locations over half the time period, in the same stadiums that they are already frequently selling out.... and they actually think this will work.

    Is it April 1st? Is this some elaborate wind-up? Why does no-one involved seem to have a single iota of common sense or a basic grasp of mathematics?

  • Juiceoftheapple on February 28, 2016, 23:28 GMT

    At Taunton, you meet people from all over over the west Country, the place is packed to the rafters and the cricket is exciting. So this is getting shutdown because greedy fellas in cardiff and Southampton spent beyond their means building big stadiums that are empty because they haven't got good support and average teams. Cracking idea. Cricket is played in the villages and towns, every village has a team. It is not the sport of cities. My lad is 4 and has never watched a pro cricket match, despite having 2 bats before he was born. The ECB is about to move elite T20 cricket out of his region before I have had the chance to take him. The ECB are doing a great job killing our sport, and i've nearly given up caring, because its just about money, and the power dizzy vain glorious seduced by the glitz and dollar. Go Cardiff!!!

  •   Darren Cook on February 28, 2016, 22:26 GMT

    Brilliant news,as a man from Cheshire this brings me in from the cold, finally some Counties are embracing the fact we need to improve the standard!

  • CopperOxford on February 28, 2016, 19:05 GMT

    I would certainly support a league system with promotion and relegation (I have never understood why this is deemed good for the 4-day game but not for the shorter forms) though you don't need a city franchise to introduce that. The administrators must reckon that they can fill a 20-30,000 capacity ground for EVERY T20 match. It's the only rationale for moving to a city-based model. I think if it goes through it's the beginning of the end for the county system as we know it. In future, no Essex, Kent, Middlesex and Surrey, but London Power, no Warwickshire or Worcestershire but Birmingham Bulls, no Leicestershire, Notts and Derbys but Nottingham Trents . Sadly, ancient county loyalties mean very little in today's world of tiny memberships when, instead, you can draw for every match on conurbations of 1m plus. But just think how hard worked some of those pitches will be and how tired and turgid they may rapidly become.

  •   Neil Dyer on February 28, 2016, 18:52 GMT

    @Anderson Are you really holding up West Indian cricket as a good example here? Last time I checked, there were player strikes, contract difficulties...

  •   Neil Dyer on February 28, 2016, 18:49 GMT

    So a county gets in to huge debt in order to host Test Match cricket, and then expects the non-test hosting counties to lose their best revenue stream. Clearly very fair.

  • Hammond7249 on February 28, 2016, 18:48 GMT

    I have a suspicion that some chairman who are "weakening" towards the idea of franchises will get a short, sharp shock when they realise that when previously they had some revenue from T20 matches coming in, they will now have none. And who is going to tell all the county players who currently enjoy playing in the Big Blast that they will no longer be playing T20 cricket? Reducing 18 counties down to 10 or 12 franchises will mean that many players will NOT be playing T20 cricket anymore. I live in Lancas but am a member at Hampshire. I will not be willing to change my allegiance, as it were, by supporting a team called Manchester Manatees or whatever and I can guarantee that Southampton won't be getting a franchise. Rod Bransgrove can't even get an Ashes match at the Rose Bowl so he can forget about a city based T20 team. If this does come to fruition, I will happily give up watching T20 full-stop. I can't think of anything better than watching County Championship games anyway.

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