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Should county cricket be allowed to monopolise UK sports pages?

How will sports like football survive if this madness is allowed to continue?

Alex Bowden
The government has blamed weekday crowds at Championship games for the economic slowdown  •  Getty Images

The government has blamed weekday crowds at Championship games for the economic slowdown  •  Getty Images

There is a growing feeling that county cricket is becoming too dominant within British sport. Of particular concern is the way the first-class season is expanding, denying less popular sports the media coverage that might help sustain them.
For example, where September once marked the start of the football season, the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea now struggle to get on the back pages as they are effectively competing for attention with the might of the County Championship - a battle they simply cannot win. Even worse, many local newspapers - and indeed a number of nationals - do not send reporters to cover Premier League matches as they are all otherwise engaged at the County Ground in Derby or at New Road in Worcester.
It would be one thing if it were just the match reportage itself, but the unstoppable circus of the County Championship also brings with it a whole tranche of stories from beyond the boundary. Potential transfers are endlessly debated in columns and on TV, while certain commercial radio stations appear to feature little else. Tune in at any time of day or night and you're likely to catch Aftab Habib or Ed Giddins ranting about why Glamorgan were wrong to sign James Kettleborough.
Lancashire's recent signing of Nathan Buck may well prove significant in deciding who gets promoted from the second division next season, but did we really need months and months of "will he, won't he" newspaper stories prior to confirmation from Old Trafford?
One three-hour radio talk show was almost entirely devoted to whether or not Buck's agent had been spotted in a Costa Coffee in Nottingham. It turned out he had, but it didn't signify that the right-armer was on his way to Trent Bridge. It was simply that his agent happens to live and work in Nottingham. That nobody picked up on this until a week later merely highlights how desperation for a sensational headline can push journalistic standards downwards.
Shortly afterwards, one tabloid devoted four whole pages to the same club's decision not to renew the contract of Andrea Agathangelou after five seasons with the club. One journalist had even been dispatched to Cyprus to see how the decision was being taken - a pointless exercise given that Agathangelou was born and brought up in South Africa, despite holding a Cypriot passport.
Perhaps the madness could be reined in by the introduction of a transfer window. At present we see the ludicrous situation where TV channels position reporters outside each of the county grounds throughout the winter months so that they keep us updated with all the latest transfer news "as it happens". With most clubs signing only three or four players a year, is this really necessary? Surely if there were a designated period for transfer activity right at the start of the year, all business could be concluded satisfactorily. This would allow other sports their time in the spotlight during the rest of the off season.
County cricket is already cannibalising the British sporting landscape and pretty soon it will be all that's left. Without urgent action, a noble sport such as football might only appear on our screens once every four years at the Olympics. It might seem unlikely, but it is quite possible that the British public would be unhappy with this, perhaps even coming to resent the year-round coverage of county cricket as a consequence.

Alex Bowden blogs at King Cricket