Pressure grows on ECB to restructure t20 cricket
With the line up for Friends Provident t20 Finals Day complete the ECB are under pressure to scrap the new tournament after the new format failed to ignite the publics imagination which saw the ECB’s premium tournament turn into a damp squid.
With some games played in almost empty stadiums and the standard of action well below that of the IPL the public voted with its feat to leave some Counties county the costs of a disastrous summer.
Despite the national team winning the Twenty20 World Cup in the Caribbean 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 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 during the second week of the tournament when only 4,900 people turned up to watch Gloucestershire’s 10 wicket demolition of Surrey.
The new tournament was poorly structured with too many games which clashed with a number of International series’ which meant teams were unable to attract the world’s best players making the Friends Provident t20 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.
With a bloated schedule spread out over 6 weeks which guaranteed each County 8 home games; family's, who were the ECB's target audience in 2003 started to cherry pick the best games meaning an alarming drop off in the average attendance for most counties.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though with some counties like Somerset and Sussex enjoying big attendances but the general trend this summer was a worrying decrease in spectator’s levels.
A number of chief executives have already voiced their concerns about the tournament 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 favoured a more traditional approach involving all 18 counties.
Although the Friends Provident t20 isn’t any longer then the IPL the main issue is that the ECB has taken the IPL’s hugely successful format and tried to stretch it and remould it so they can keep the traditional 18 county format.
The result is a tournament which has failed to grab the public’s 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 year’s 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 have’s and have’s not of county cricket at logger heads.