Twenty20 Cup May 26, 2009

Crowd numbers suggest Twenty20 overkill

Cricinfo staff

In his most recent fortnightly column on English cricket, Lawrence Booth warned that the signs were there that Twenty20 cricket in England might be starting to lose its appeal. After six seasons where crowds flocked to games, early ticket sales, he said, suggested that interest was cooling.

The acid test was always going to come on the opening day of this season's competition. At Lord's, everything was set for a bumper crowd. The sun was shining, it was a Bank Holiday Monday, and the game featured Middlesex, the defending champions, against cross-London rivals Surrey. Five years ago, this same fixture attracted almost 30,000 people in a game that was a virtual sell-out. Last year, more than 16,000 attended.

This time there were only around 10,000 inside Lord's, with pre-sales only 7000. But the organisers didn't help themselves. One would-be spectator contacted Cricinfo to report his frustration. "I joined the queue near main gates at 2.10pm," he said. "The queue didn't move, and we were told they'd 'run out of tickets'! The [new] tickets arrived at 2.35pm as players were going out. I got to front of queue after play had started (we could hear inside ground) only to be told it was for 'members only'." He gave up and went home.

The lower attendance was not a one-off. It was the same story across the country where counties reported sluggish ticket sales - some indicated they were as much as 40% down. Coming so soon after very poor attendances for the Tests at Lord's and Chester-le-Street, the warning bells ought to be sounding within the ECB.

Excuses are already being prepared, ranging from the recession to people keeping their powder dry for the ICC World Twenty20 and the Ashes. Critics counter that the marketing for the earlier-than-usual start has been poor and the scheduling means that there is now a glut of Twenty20 cricket, a situation which will only get worse. Next year the ECB unleashes its second Twenty20 league, meaning a substantial increase in the number of matches.

Those running the game would do well to take heed of the crowds and also the views of the players. Speaking to the Independent, Shaun Udal, the veteran Middlesex captain who has been in the game for almost two decades, warned that "there's a danger we are going to kill it". He continued. "It's typical of English cricket, you get something that's right and it gets overdone. It's daft, it's just being greedy. It's not good for the players and it's not good for the spectators."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mukesh on May 28, 2009, 5:38 GMT

    For reasons unknown my previous message was not published and the gist of it was: Over pricing Bad Management Bad Marketing As a result those accountable should be held to account and should be sacked especially in view of the fact that they have failed to maximise the potential of the format invented in England and brilliantly exploited by Modi vis a vis IPL! The requirement now is to reduce entrance fees and increase advertising emphasising the key element of T20 which is FUN!

  • Ian on May 27, 2009, 9:45 GMT

    It is not only the cost of entry that is keeping people away. Twenty20 was intended to provide exciting nail biting finishes. It rarely happens. Usually it is a big score followed by a collapse or a low score followed by sedate batting. No tension - no entertainment - no crowds.

  • ginson on May 26, 2009, 22:00 GMT

    it is too early to judge the future of 20/20,not only that we cannot say v r killing the game due to excess of it because v cant except a full house every time. for example the football matches played in UK, premier league, cocacola league,europia league then champions league along with international freindly matches, not all matches r full house but good matches will have a fair amount of audience. Also like others mentioned there are lot of other reasons like hike in price for each and everything inside the stadium and outside.

  • Thomas on May 26, 2009, 21:47 GMT

    I spent my bank holiday at a Bradford League game. Admittance? £1.50 for 100 overs of cricket, and suitably priced refreshments. Better than 40 overs at Headingly for an exhorbitant price.

  • Ned on May 26, 2009, 16:32 GMT

    I know plenty of people who looked into going to one or more matches at Canterbury this year, but baulked at the £20 prices. In a town with a high student population, and in the middle of a recession, that's just crazy. And £10 a time even for kids - how many 11 year olds will afford more than one game a season? And it's also the only format which doesn't have free entry for members - only a small discount and only when booked months in advance. The product isn't so much better than the CC, FPT or EVEN pro40 that it justifies £20 a time. And yet yesterday's report claimed Kent were one of the few counties confident with sales. We haven't had a home game yet, so we'll see what happens when we do...

  • Keith on May 26, 2009, 16:03 GMT

    Hey, wake up folks. This has got nothing to do with the proper game of cricket. It's just a hyped up commercial venture to get people who don't like or understand the genuine form of the game, to cough up their money. Since there are millions of "non-real" fans it looks commercially attractive. It has the same appeal to a real cricket fan that "Snap" has to a "Bridge" enthusiast. Sadly other forms of the game are also being affected by the hyped commercial interest. Sadly after following the game for 60 years I don't go to any matches now and I know many other real cricket fans who've also given up.

  • Paul on May 26, 2009, 15:55 GMT

    I am a Hampshire supporter but I refused to renew my membership this year. The reason? Too much 20/20. I live in the north of the County so 45 minutes to the ground, 2.5 hours actual mickey mouse play, 45 minutes to get out of the ground and 45 minutes to get home and I would have to pay extra £15 for the priviledge! I would not go even if it was free!!!!

  • Will on May 26, 2009, 14:37 GMT

    In some cases there is a bargain to be had; Warwickshire offer all 5 home games for £40 (or £8 per game). But even so, when I spoke to the ticket sales people last week, sales for the game against Worcestershire on Friday this week, which is normally a sell-out or is a near sell-out, were 'very disappointing'.

    The answer is very simple, in a year when the Aussies are here for 5 test matches and a ridiculous 7 ODIs, plus the Twenty20 World Cup, plus the Windies tour and in a time when people are watching how much they spend, something was going to give, and it was most likely to be the domestic rather than the international games that would suffer.

    Twenty20 cricket will probably be a qualified success this year (i.e. the counties will still make a few quid) and it would surprise me if it isn't back to normal next season.

  • bill on May 26, 2009, 14:20 GMT

    As I understood it most of the funding for the Counties comes from the TV rights so I cannot see why they are ripping off fans at twenty/twenty games. Surely the players would appreciate playing in front of decent size crowds so a cut in admission prices would encourage people to attend. Also with the sad but massive increase in unemployment the Counties could provide free admission for those unemployed people and OAP's at County four-day games. Again the players would benefit from having some spectrators in the grounds rather than playing in huge almost empty Test grounds.

  • graham on May 26, 2009, 13:50 GMT

    twenty20 overkill, absolute rubbish, i expect like myself and many others that not many people new the twenty20 cup had even started,it must be about a month earlier than it normally is and straight after the friends provident ,i suppose its been brought forward because of the world cup and the ashes so it shouldn't be to much of a surprise crowds are down

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