County news November 23, 2011

ECB considers Championship reduction

22

The ECB will consider a proposal to reduce the County Championship season to 14 matches from 2014 having received recommendations from the review into the English domestic game while a return of 50-over cricket is imminent.

The review was led by David Morgan, the former ECB chairman and ICC president, and was presented to the board on Wednesday at Lord's. If the recommendations are accepted in full, and another presentation will be made at the next board meeting in January before a vote, the 2014 season would also compromise ten 50-over matches - to bring the county game into line with the international arena - and 14 Friends Life t20 games, which is an increase on the 10 matches set for the 2012 season.

Losing from one competition and adding to another is an example of compromises Morgan has felt he needed to make having gained input from over 300 people - including players, media, spectators and sponsors - while compiling his report. It also means there will not be a drastic reduction in the volume of cricket played.

There were no immediate recommendations over how to achieve the cutting down of four-day matches although another attempt to introduce a conference, or three-tier, structure has been suggested. However, the retention of two divisions is also possible with counties no longer playing all opposition home and away.

In 1997, the Raising the Standard report led by Lord MacLaurin, the ECB chairman, proposed a conference structure including play-offs but it didn't gain widespread support and the current two division set-up was implemented for the 2000 season. Then again, in 2007, the Schofield Report, implemented following the Ashes whitewash, highlighted the volume of Championship cricket but no action was taken. A year ago another proposal to slim the Championship to 14 matches was rejected.

Creating a more understandable and coherent fixture list was also part of the review and Morgan has recommended that t20 cricket is played on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays, and that County Championship matches begin on Fridays in the early season, on Sundays in mid-season, and Mondays at the end of the season.

"There are divergent opinions concerning the optimum structure to strengthen the domestic game," Morgan said. "There was however a consistency of views expressed that the success of the Team England and Cricket Partnerships departments within ECB should be complimented with the strengthening of the department responsible for the domestic professional game.

"The volume of domestic cricket has made it impossible to schedule consistent start dates and I believe that spectators, players and administrators alike would welcome the certainty which a predictable programme would provide.

"I am convinced that there are no substantive commercial benefits evident from a 40-over format in comparison with the 50-over format which is the standard for international one-day cricket. I have therefore concluded that the board should adopt the 50-over format from 2014. I am pleased that the Board recognised the value of the extensive consultation which has been central to this review and appreciate the kind comments expressed by the board on my initial presentation."

David Collier, the ECB chief executive, said: "The board was highly impressed with the diligent consultation and findings presented by David Morgan. It is clear from David Morgan's initial work that in order to compliment the Team England goal of mirroring success in the Test and Twenty20 formats at the forthcoming World Cups, the format of ODI cricket must be introduced within domestic cricket from 2014.

"To support and strengthen the domestic county game, 14 FL t20 matches should be played, and to provide preparation time for high quality four day cricket, the County Championship should be reduced to 14 matches. The board unanimously endorsed the Morgan Review comments to create an appointment to view with consistent start dates in the County Championship and FL t20 competitions."

Another of Morgan's recommendations involves the salary cap that each county operates under and he has said that this should be reduced slightly, with an increase in the incentive payments for fielding younger players.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • bumsonseats on November 25, 2011, 15:51 GMT

    the rest of the cricketing world should realise that the cc has helped their players become better test players over the years, not as much now as to be fair theres not the world class player about. with the average cricket picking up large sums of cash in ipl. z khan was the last player a couple of years ago to say how much cc helped his game. i suppose sa will be the next in line as a comp as it gave the grounding to 2 of our saffers. who completed their cricketing schooling here. the aussies you would think would have sent their lesser players to cc. but now there lesser players, are actually in the test side. funny how things change. but at least now our young guys can get games which these overseas players took up. dpk

  • bumsonseats on November 25, 2011, 13:05 GMT

    as my own county won the 1st div champonship this year i say stick to what we have got but i would say that. play less t20, although we are world champs and the best side in the world at t20. none of our contracted players other than the finals play in it. and 40 overs to revert to 50 overs. with the leagues set as per this years pro 40 league. iv never seen a live t20 game, either international or club level. reduce the t20 by 1/2 as it takes up to much of the season and the crowds have been average and i believe less games the same amounts of bums on seats will be the case. we are also top in test cricket so we must be doing something right their also. so four day cricket to stay as it is. so other than 50 overs cricket we are doing all right. better than some. dpk

  • SirViv1973 on November 24, 2011, 21:55 GMT

    I don't like the idea of going to regional conferences . I think the CC has improved immeasurably since we moved to a 2 tier system. We are now reaping the rewards of more competitive games with England at no1 in test rankings. However there is a need to reduce games so I would go with 3 divisions of 6 each playing home and away with end of season play offs which would mean teams would play between 12 -14 matches.However looking at Mr Morgan's plan the logical thing to do would be to drop 2 counties that would make it easier to have 14 games in CC and FPT20 and would also leave 10 matches for the 50 over comp if you had 3 conferences of 6 including Scots and Dutch

  • SDHM on November 24, 2011, 18:01 GMT

    Edd - it was, and it worked pretty well if memory serves me right. It was better than the ridiculously long and drawn out tournament we have now.

  • on November 24, 2011, 12:43 GMT

    I can't see why the County Championship needs tinkering with at all. Surely we should be reducing T20 cricket instead, to give more preparation time. Perhaps if T20 wasn't over exposed, the crowds would come back and appreciate the shorter format more.

  • on November 24, 2011, 10:55 GMT

    Most of this proposal makes sense as long as the two division championship is retained. The first division should consist of eight teams playing each other home and away. The best bet for division two would be to split the ten teams in to two regional groups of five with sides playing their regional rivals twice (eight games) and the other five teams once. The top two sides in each region could then play-off, the first placed side having home advantage against the second placed side in the other group, to determine the two promoted clubs. It could be that those second division teams with only six home games get priority for the tour matches. This is far from ideal but it would retain credibility.

  • RandyOZ on November 24, 2011, 10:26 GMT

    If they combined the season with the South African summer, which is where half the players come from anyway. They could extend it without any weather problems.

  • Paul_JT on November 24, 2011, 10:08 GMT

    More consistent start times is a good idea. Hard to see how changing all three competitions is going do anything but confuse supporters further. Leave Championship alone. Return 50-over to a league of two divisions with promotion/relegation, or at least replace Unicorns with Ireland and add quarters. Keep T20 with 3 groups, 10 group games and Finals Day as planned, but add a best-of-3 quarters (when England players will be available).

  • YorkshirePudding on November 24, 2011, 6:07 GMT

    I'm not sure all this chopping and changing is good for the game. I would like to see a three (or four) Division CC, dropping each division to 7 teams, with the bottom 4 CC2 teams dropping into the third division, and the top 3 (10 with 4 divisions) minor counties making up the numbers in the lower divisions, after that you go into a conference system (NE,NW, EM, WM,SE,SW) where the other minor counties play, and at the end of a season the top team in each conference has a play off against each other, with the winners earning the right to challenge for a place in the lowest Division, by playing the Bottom team in that division.

  • Devon_Dumpling on November 24, 2011, 4:43 GMT

    I would like to echo the comments of an earlier poster - get rid of the 40 over format completely. It has no international equivalent, and falls in a worthless half-way point where it does not teach players how to hit out properly (for a 20 over game) or how to construct a match defining or well paced innings (useful for the 50 over international).

    Pointless, poorly attended, and not even a massive cash cow for the Counties...bin it, and lets keep the Championship alive in its current form!

  • bumsonseats on November 25, 2011, 15:51 GMT

    the rest of the cricketing world should realise that the cc has helped their players become better test players over the years, not as much now as to be fair theres not the world class player about. with the average cricket picking up large sums of cash in ipl. z khan was the last player a couple of years ago to say how much cc helped his game. i suppose sa will be the next in line as a comp as it gave the grounding to 2 of our saffers. who completed their cricketing schooling here. the aussies you would think would have sent their lesser players to cc. but now there lesser players, are actually in the test side. funny how things change. but at least now our young guys can get games which these overseas players took up. dpk

  • bumsonseats on November 25, 2011, 13:05 GMT

    as my own county won the 1st div champonship this year i say stick to what we have got but i would say that. play less t20, although we are world champs and the best side in the world at t20. none of our contracted players other than the finals play in it. and 40 overs to revert to 50 overs. with the leagues set as per this years pro 40 league. iv never seen a live t20 game, either international or club level. reduce the t20 by 1/2 as it takes up to much of the season and the crowds have been average and i believe less games the same amounts of bums on seats will be the case. we are also top in test cricket so we must be doing something right their also. so four day cricket to stay as it is. so other than 50 overs cricket we are doing all right. better than some. dpk

  • SirViv1973 on November 24, 2011, 21:55 GMT

    I don't like the idea of going to regional conferences . I think the CC has improved immeasurably since we moved to a 2 tier system. We are now reaping the rewards of more competitive games with England at no1 in test rankings. However there is a need to reduce games so I would go with 3 divisions of 6 each playing home and away with end of season play offs which would mean teams would play between 12 -14 matches.However looking at Mr Morgan's plan the logical thing to do would be to drop 2 counties that would make it easier to have 14 games in CC and FPT20 and would also leave 10 matches for the 50 over comp if you had 3 conferences of 6 including Scots and Dutch

  • SDHM on November 24, 2011, 18:01 GMT

    Edd - it was, and it worked pretty well if memory serves me right. It was better than the ridiculously long and drawn out tournament we have now.

  • on November 24, 2011, 12:43 GMT

    I can't see why the County Championship needs tinkering with at all. Surely we should be reducing T20 cricket instead, to give more preparation time. Perhaps if T20 wasn't over exposed, the crowds would come back and appreciate the shorter format more.

  • on November 24, 2011, 10:55 GMT

    Most of this proposal makes sense as long as the two division championship is retained. The first division should consist of eight teams playing each other home and away. The best bet for division two would be to split the ten teams in to two regional groups of five with sides playing their regional rivals twice (eight games) and the other five teams once. The top two sides in each region could then play-off, the first placed side having home advantage against the second placed side in the other group, to determine the two promoted clubs. It could be that those second division teams with only six home games get priority for the tour matches. This is far from ideal but it would retain credibility.

  • RandyOZ on November 24, 2011, 10:26 GMT

    If they combined the season with the South African summer, which is where half the players come from anyway. They could extend it without any weather problems.

  • Paul_JT on November 24, 2011, 10:08 GMT

    More consistent start times is a good idea. Hard to see how changing all three competitions is going do anything but confuse supporters further. Leave Championship alone. Return 50-over to a league of two divisions with promotion/relegation, or at least replace Unicorns with Ireland and add quarters. Keep T20 with 3 groups, 10 group games and Finals Day as planned, but add a best-of-3 quarters (when England players will be available).

  • YorkshirePudding on November 24, 2011, 6:07 GMT

    I'm not sure all this chopping and changing is good for the game. I would like to see a three (or four) Division CC, dropping each division to 7 teams, with the bottom 4 CC2 teams dropping into the third division, and the top 3 (10 with 4 divisions) minor counties making up the numbers in the lower divisions, after that you go into a conference system (NE,NW, EM, WM,SE,SW) where the other minor counties play, and at the end of a season the top team in each conference has a play off against each other, with the winners earning the right to challenge for a place in the lowest Division, by playing the Bottom team in that division.

  • Devon_Dumpling on November 24, 2011, 4:43 GMT

    I would like to echo the comments of an earlier poster - get rid of the 40 over format completely. It has no international equivalent, and falls in a worthless half-way point where it does not teach players how to hit out properly (for a 20 over game) or how to construct a match defining or well paced innings (useful for the 50 over international).

    Pointless, poorly attended, and not even a massive cash cow for the Counties...bin it, and lets keep the Championship alive in its current form!

  • on November 24, 2011, 2:38 GMT

    Dont you all understand, The ECB and by definition most of the counties dont really care about the county championship anymore, It's all about money , Introducing a 50 over competition (after scrapping one) increasing 20 over games (after reducing them). Talk about long term planning ,, hahaaa. Cricket at domestic is about getting the punters in not about the standard of the game.I gave up on County cricket 10 years ago after 25 years of membership, RIP English County Cricket

  • on November 23, 2011, 23:22 GMT

    The Championship works brilliantly, the best domestic sporting competition with high quality and unpredictability. You can rely on the ECB to screw it up, whilst ignoring such gems as one day games in April against made up teams, a competition so dull the Irish could not be bothered with and a revamped Lords final in Autumn.

  • on November 23, 2011, 23:19 GMT

    Honeymonster-Isn't that almost exactly what the twenty20 cup used to be (bar 2 leg semi finals and final) before the counties got greedy and increased the number of pool matches from 10 to 16 each?

  • Lanky1 on November 23, 2011, 23:03 GMT

    When I was young county cricketers played 6 days a week most weeks. I am prepared to accept that a lot of it did not have the full-on commitment that is evident in the County Championship today. 2 divisions and 16 games has produced a wonderful competition over the last few years. It has also developed players for England. It would be much better if it were played on consistent days of the week and also if one team played all the other 8 teams before playing the reverse fixtures rather than often playing the same team twice in quick succession. Not so many people can come and watch it but thousands of us follow it. Even more now that we can have it ball by ball on our phones. It is the crown jewels of English Cricket and if it ain't broke don't fix it. Fit the rest in around it. Have T20 on Fri and Sat and a 40-over Sunday League. It is not the number of overs but the pitches and the weather that mean England or only conditioned to win 1-day games in this county and not abroad.

  • WillPash on November 23, 2011, 22:09 GMT

    I think creating regionalised franchises would be like turkey voting for Christmas. The counties won't go for that. I feel the 18 counties are still needed, as they are the thing that has made the County Championship what it is in its diversity. I feel a regional conference set up with three divisions of six teams would work. The Northern division would be Lancs, Yorks, Durham, Notts, Derbys, and Leics. The Midland division would be Warks, Worcs, Glam, Glos, Som, and Nton. And the South division would be Suss, Surr, Midd, Kent, Hants, and Essex. Play home and away then the top teams from the three conferences end up in a semi final with a 4th team decided by the best runner up. Play semi and final matches in neutral test grounds if available. I would love to keep the two divisional set up but I am seeing it become an expense than can be avoided, as travel would be kept to a minimum; and a Monday start would be a sensible solution.Cricket cannot afford revolution, only evolution

  • SDHM on November 23, 2011, 20:44 GMT

    Matthew - I agree. The amount of first class cricket wasn't as big an issue when the T20 Cup only lasted a couple of weeks. I've also thought about something along 2929paul's line of thought, only you split it into three regions of six teams: North - Lancashire, Yorkshire, Durham, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire; South - Middlesex, Surrey, Essex, Kent, Sussex, Northamptonshire; Midlands/West/Wales - Somerset, Gloucestershire, Glamorgan, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Hampshire, or something along those lines (I realise calling Northamptonshire south is pushing it before anyone calls me on it, but I can't fit them in elsewhere!). The winners of all three leagues, plus the best runner up, then enter into semi finals and a final. Each team this way plays a guaranteed 10 matches by playing each other twice, teams that make it through play 12, or 14 if you want to do the semi-finals and final home and away. It's a similar formula to the American baseball leagues I think.

  • stringbok on November 23, 2011, 20:30 GMT

    Totally agree with Patrick. You only have to imagine an FA premiership where Manchester City played Chelsea and Spurs but Man Utd didn't, to realise how ludicrous the idea is. I can't see how they can get a 14 match competition from 18 teams that still holds some competitive integrity.

    And why the sudden change of mind on T20s. Only five minutes ago, much to the chagrin of counties like Sussex and Essex, the number of games was reduced because the test match counties were whinging that they couldn't make an expanded competition pay. Why will it be any different in 2014.

    Tell the BCCI that we won't send teams to the Champions League unless they shift the competition to October. Three extra weeks in September - job done.

  • hhillbumper on November 23, 2011, 20:24 GMT

    how about they cut down on 20 20 matches which are causing so much hassle with the travel.I would lose some of them and some 1 day matches because where else do you learn the proper skills then in four day cricket

  • on November 23, 2011, 19:34 GMT

    If the Championship is reduced to 14 matches so that each county no longer plays all the others in it's division both at home and away the competition will no longer be credible and I will stop watching it. If matches need to be dropped, get rid of the pointless 40 over matches - most of those shown on Sky are played in deserted grounds anyway. 40 over cricket is well past it's sell-by date.

  • Mephistopheles01 on November 23, 2011, 19:00 GMT

    Why start championship games on a monday at the end of the season? Ludicrous idea...the rest is good though.

  • 2929paul on November 23, 2011, 17:57 GMT

    What would happen if we altered one of the competitions so that there were six regions/franchises? Let's call them South (Kent, Sussex, Hampshire), South West (Somerset, Gloucestershire, Glamorgan), London (Middlesex, Surrey, Essex),Central (Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire) , Midlands (Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Northants) and North (Lancashire, Yorkshire, Durham), for the sake of argument. Could we make that work for T20? Or the revised 50 over competition? Or even first class cricket? If they all played each other just once then at least two of the three counties would get a "home" fixture. Just a thought.

  • on November 23, 2011, 17:14 GMT

    The problem isn't the county championship anyway, its the fact that in recent years the ecb have over done the amount of t20 matches and tried to cram the rest of the matches into a small period, better scheduling is the solution.

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  • on November 23, 2011, 17:14 GMT

    The problem isn't the county championship anyway, its the fact that in recent years the ecb have over done the amount of t20 matches and tried to cram the rest of the matches into a small period, better scheduling is the solution.

  • 2929paul on November 23, 2011, 17:57 GMT

    What would happen if we altered one of the competitions so that there were six regions/franchises? Let's call them South (Kent, Sussex, Hampshire), South West (Somerset, Gloucestershire, Glamorgan), London (Middlesex, Surrey, Essex),Central (Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire) , Midlands (Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Northants) and North (Lancashire, Yorkshire, Durham), for the sake of argument. Could we make that work for T20? Or the revised 50 over competition? Or even first class cricket? If they all played each other just once then at least two of the three counties would get a "home" fixture. Just a thought.

  • Mephistopheles01 on November 23, 2011, 19:00 GMT

    Why start championship games on a monday at the end of the season? Ludicrous idea...the rest is good though.

  • on November 23, 2011, 19:34 GMT

    If the Championship is reduced to 14 matches so that each county no longer plays all the others in it's division both at home and away the competition will no longer be credible and I will stop watching it. If matches need to be dropped, get rid of the pointless 40 over matches - most of those shown on Sky are played in deserted grounds anyway. 40 over cricket is well past it's sell-by date.

  • hhillbumper on November 23, 2011, 20:24 GMT

    how about they cut down on 20 20 matches which are causing so much hassle with the travel.I would lose some of them and some 1 day matches because where else do you learn the proper skills then in four day cricket

  • stringbok on November 23, 2011, 20:30 GMT

    Totally agree with Patrick. You only have to imagine an FA premiership where Manchester City played Chelsea and Spurs but Man Utd didn't, to realise how ludicrous the idea is. I can't see how they can get a 14 match competition from 18 teams that still holds some competitive integrity.

    And why the sudden change of mind on T20s. Only five minutes ago, much to the chagrin of counties like Sussex and Essex, the number of games was reduced because the test match counties were whinging that they couldn't make an expanded competition pay. Why will it be any different in 2014.

    Tell the BCCI that we won't send teams to the Champions League unless they shift the competition to October. Three extra weeks in September - job done.

  • SDHM on November 23, 2011, 20:44 GMT

    Matthew - I agree. The amount of first class cricket wasn't as big an issue when the T20 Cup only lasted a couple of weeks. I've also thought about something along 2929paul's line of thought, only you split it into three regions of six teams: North - Lancashire, Yorkshire, Durham, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire; South - Middlesex, Surrey, Essex, Kent, Sussex, Northamptonshire; Midlands/West/Wales - Somerset, Gloucestershire, Glamorgan, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Hampshire, or something along those lines (I realise calling Northamptonshire south is pushing it before anyone calls me on it, but I can't fit them in elsewhere!). The winners of all three leagues, plus the best runner up, then enter into semi finals and a final. Each team this way plays a guaranteed 10 matches by playing each other twice, teams that make it through play 12, or 14 if you want to do the semi-finals and final home and away. It's a similar formula to the American baseball leagues I think.

  • WillPash on November 23, 2011, 22:09 GMT

    I think creating regionalised franchises would be like turkey voting for Christmas. The counties won't go for that. I feel the 18 counties are still needed, as they are the thing that has made the County Championship what it is in its diversity. I feel a regional conference set up with three divisions of six teams would work. The Northern division would be Lancs, Yorks, Durham, Notts, Derbys, and Leics. The Midland division would be Warks, Worcs, Glam, Glos, Som, and Nton. And the South division would be Suss, Surr, Midd, Kent, Hants, and Essex. Play home and away then the top teams from the three conferences end up in a semi final with a 4th team decided by the best runner up. Play semi and final matches in neutral test grounds if available. I would love to keep the two divisional set up but I am seeing it become an expense than can be avoided, as travel would be kept to a minimum; and a Monday start would be a sensible solution.Cricket cannot afford revolution, only evolution

  • Lanky1 on November 23, 2011, 23:03 GMT

    When I was young county cricketers played 6 days a week most weeks. I am prepared to accept that a lot of it did not have the full-on commitment that is evident in the County Championship today. 2 divisions and 16 games has produced a wonderful competition over the last few years. It has also developed players for England. It would be much better if it were played on consistent days of the week and also if one team played all the other 8 teams before playing the reverse fixtures rather than often playing the same team twice in quick succession. Not so many people can come and watch it but thousands of us follow it. Even more now that we can have it ball by ball on our phones. It is the crown jewels of English Cricket and if it ain't broke don't fix it. Fit the rest in around it. Have T20 on Fri and Sat and a 40-over Sunday League. It is not the number of overs but the pitches and the weather that mean England or only conditioned to win 1-day games in this county and not abroad.

  • on November 23, 2011, 23:19 GMT

    Honeymonster-Isn't that almost exactly what the twenty20 cup used to be (bar 2 leg semi finals and final) before the counties got greedy and increased the number of pool matches from 10 to 16 each?