Twenty20 cricket reaches saturation point
With two weeks of the Friends Provident t20 tournament completed the new format as failed to ignite the publicís imagination which as seen the ECBís premium tournament swept away by World Cup fever.
Despite the national team winning the Twenty20 World Cup in the Caribbean last month crowd levels around the country have continued to fall with some games being played in front of crowds of less then 2,000.
With spectator levels dropping to worrying levels a number of counties have already resorted to giving away hundreds of tickets to local cricket clubs and schools in an effort to boost flagging attendances.
The biggest sign that Twenty20 cricket has reached saturation point came at the Brit Oval last week when only 4,900 people turned up to watch Gloucestershireís 10 wicket demolition of Surrey.
The new tournament has been poorly structured and with teams unable to attract the worldís best players the Friends Provident t20 has become just another meaningless bland Twenty20 tournament.
The ECB scrapped the popular Twenty20 Cup during the winter in order to launch a new expanded Twenty20 tournament which the ECB hoped would rival the Indian Premier League.
Two weeks into the new event and the Friends Provident t20 looks like a damp squid.
With a bloated schedule spread out over 6 weeks which guarantees each County 8 home games; family's, who were the ECB's target audience in 2003 have started to cherry pick the best games meaning an alarming drop off in the average attendance for most counties.
Itís not all doom and gloom though with some counties like Somerset and Sussex enjoying big attendances but the general trend this summer as been a decrease in spectatorís levels.
A number of chief executives have already voiced their concerns about the tournament after just two weeks leaving the ECB under pressure to restructure the tournament after just one season.
With the huge success of the IPL; the ECB was already under pressure from the test venue counties who wanted to set up their own franchise tournament while Giles Clarke, the ECB Chairman has always favored a more traditional approach involving all 18 counties.
Although the Friends Provident t20 isnít any longer then the IPL the main issue is that the ECB has taken the IPLís hugely successful format and tried to stretch it and remold it so they can keep the traditional 18 county format.
The result is a tournament which has failed to grab the publicís imagination that is now used to seeing star studded teams battle it out in the IPL. By comparison the journeymen and unknown youngsters of county cricket are no longer enough to fill the grounds.
During the last 7 years the attendances the Twenty20 Cup produced allowed many counties to balance their books but with a number of teams hiring expensive overseas players and a down turn in paying customers the return on this yearís event may be minimal.
With the counties also barred from taking part in the cash bonanza of the Twenty20 Champions League by the ECB because the tournament clashes with the end of the County Championship this winter could prove to a be a bloody one with the haveís and haveís not of county cricket at logger heads.