County news March 4, 2017

Popularity soars for county-based T20, study suggests

Northants won the 2016 NatWest Blast at a sold-out Edgbaston © Getty Images

A new report suggests the popularity of domestic T20 cricket in England rose sharply during 2016.

The YouGov SportsIndex Report 2017 places the NatWest Blast among the top 10 sporting events in terms of public perception for the first time.

The report comes as the ECB executive continue plans to launch a new T20 competition on top of the NatWest Blast in the belief that the county system will not deliver a tournament of maximum impact.

The SportsIndex report analyses the performance of overall recent public awareness and sentiment of news about leading UK and international sports competitions events by interviewing 100 people each day. Respondents are asked: "Over the past two weeks, which of the following sporting events have you heard something positive/negative about?"

It them measures the 'buzz' about each event by defining the net difference between the amount of respondents hearing positive news and those hearing negative news in the previous two weeks. Buzz may also be negative if the event has been subject to a high level of negative publicity.

The report states: "Twenty20 Cricket is English cricket's 2016 success story, with efforts to re-position and market the game as an all-round entertainment spectacle seriously paying off and contributing to its much-improved buzz score."

The 2016 Olympics was rated as the top event, with the Paralympics third and the Six Nations fourth. Wimbledon (tennis) was second with the Tour de France rated fifth. The Premier League (football) was rated sixth with the NatWest Blast in seventh position. Test cricket was ranked eighth. The NatWest Blast competition was ranked 21st in the previous year.

While the NatWest Blast was branded a "mediocre" competition by ECB chairman Colin Graves on its eve in 2016, tickets sales have grown by 63 per-cent over the last four years.

The Blast has been built on the principle of appointment to view - playing games at a predictable time, usually Friday evenings - across all 18 first-class counties, although has been abandoned for 2017 with the tournament taking place in a more condensed midsummer slot.

The envisaged new competition moves away from the long-established professional circuit and will feature games every night of the week and be based in only eight main centres.

It also comes as it emerges that the number of tickets sold for games for the 2016 competition may have reached 950,000. ECB figures exclude all sales from games which are subsequently abandoned due to bad weather and declared a figure of 815,609, down from 827,654 in 2016. There were 15 abandoned fixtures in 2016 and seven in 2015.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. He will be covering England's tour of the Caribbean in association with Smile Group Travel, specialists in hosted supporters' packages.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Patrick_Clarke on March 6, 2017, 21:44 GMT

    Yes, so much for all the alarmist stuff rammed down county members throats at meetings at the end of last season, a season with one of the best County Cricket seasons of recent years and now so we hear from an independent source, a successful T20 county tournament too. Quite evidently, the changes ushered in for this season and the coming seasons are unnecessary and based on a completely false prospectus.

  • cricfan9829745548 on March 5, 2017, 9:11 GMT

    I think the journalist may have led a few readers down a false path here with only selected facts... As far as I know, the new franchise competition will run in conjunction with the current T20Blast schedule -ie Blast each Fri through season (as per 2016) and the new city comp in one block over a few weeks.So when it launches we will still get Fridays at our local county grounds, but we will also get a block when the best 88 players will play against each other for every game-as per EVERY other T20 comp in the world, all of which are growing at a greater rate than Blast. Which sounds like we will get the proverbial cake and eat it as well. They are going to have a go at it this year(which was scheduled a number of years ago)which means we will get to see someone like McCullum for the full tournament. Players can also focus on one format(has to be good!) Also,I think the report quoted just looked at format,not competition - so T20 World Cup will no doubt be skewing this result in 2016

  • Nutcutlet on March 4, 2017, 19:57 GMT

    So... let me get this right, the Natwest Blast made a significant stride forward in popularity in 2016. It was based on an 'appointment-to-view' on Friday evenings. People got used to it, enjoyed it - and turned up on a few more Fridays thereafter. The all-knowing ECB thought: this has been working well! Let's change it! Let's have matches in a cluster mid-season, and get rid of this Friday-night nonsense! We know better! And just as people have got used to turning up to support their counties, let's abolish that! We know better! City-based franchises - much better idea! And the national side will improve too. After all, we were rubbish in the last t20 WC! And the greatest judge in England of all cricketing matters, Mr Colin Graves, deemed our domestic t20 'mediocre'. Comes from Yorkshire, y'know. He knows best! Even in Yorkshire the old saying: if it ain't broke, don't mend it - might have been heard once or twice. Still, in the face of such wisdom, what do the rest of us know?

  • lodd on March 4, 2017, 14:45 GMT

    Great viewing on Sky too ... and that since T20 came in in 2003

  • cricfan44810102 on March 4, 2017, 14:25 GMT

    Scottmcnair I'm glad you agree that people want to see the likes of Stokes Ali Root etc so surely you can if their playing domestic t 20 thats my point as for test price's Edgbaston next year are 26 pounds for adults and children 6 pounds not 24380.

  • cricfan44810102 on March 4, 2017, 13:41 GMT

    Cricinfouser. This is a debate about the county game not the national team. Many people can't get to the test ground's so try to be humble. Living in Coventry I can get to most test ground's and especially enjoyed the Edgbaston test last year. The point is people especially the youngsters need to able to see their hero's

  • ScottMcNair on March 4, 2017, 13:25 GMT

    @cricfan44810102 sure people like to watch the stokes etc of the world, but when tickets are \24380 for tests, and this new tournement being based hours from most people, I would much rather go watch My team Northants for 15 quid whenever I like

  • Cricinfouser on March 4, 2017, 12:57 GMT

    They can go and watch England then.

  • cricfan44810102 on March 4, 2017, 10:33 GMT

    Popularity soars for county based t20 is the headline. I think we're missing the point England got to the world t20 final in spite of the system as a whole the team plays very little domestic t20 cricket. We need them to play more to progress as a team and the popularity it brings because people want to go to a game to see Stokes, Root, Ali, etc

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