Warwickshire to become Birmingham Bears in T20 Blast

 

Warwickshire have confirmed that they will be known as the Birmingham Bears in next summer's T20 Blast tournament.

The county will still be known by their traditional name in both the four-day and 50-over formats.

"We've got to get more people through the gates and attract a new audience," Bears chief executive Colin Povey told BBC Coventry & Warwickshire.

"T20 is the best vehicle we have to do that. It's not about trying to alienate our traditional fan-base," he added.

Analysis

BBC Coventry & Warwickshire's Clive Eakin:

Warwickshire have carried the county's name since being formed in a Leamington hotel in 1882. You don't have to be a 'traditionalist' to question this change after 131 years, even for one competition.

A look at the second XI fixtures, with matches in Coventry, Kenilworth, Stratford and Rugby underlines that the team represent a wide catchment area and the number of people who approach me when I'm working in Coventry & Warwickshire to ask about the Bears shows how widespread that interest is.

But it's not just supporters from these areas who'll be upset by the decision to call the team the Birmingham Bears in T20. And it seems surprising that such a break from history is being done without consulting members, many of whom were angry enough when the 'City End' became the 'Birmingham End.'

The club have risked alienating loyal supporters in making what amounts to a marketing decision. It'll be interesting to see if the 'Birmingham Bears' moniker survives longer than the 'Welsh Dragons' who are now back to being Glamorgan.

"It's about trying to get the best of both worlds. It's still all about the Bears. The Bears tag is something that we can all still relate to."

Warwickshire are the first county to respond to the latest marketing drive initiated by the England and Wales Cricket Board to increase attendances for the 12th season of Twenty20 cricket in England.

Close to 70 per cent of this summer's Twenty20 matches will be on Friday nights throughout the country - and that is certainly reflected at Edgbaston, who will host five of their seven home fixtures under the lights at Edgbaston on a Friday night.

"The ECB is repositioning the whole tournament, to give it facelift, and are very keen to drive attendances in the big cities," said Povey.

"This is a feature that we can build around on Friday nights. We're very proud of our history and heritage, but we've seen an opportunity to put some energy behind that T20 relaunch.

"People in the shires will still be very welcome on a Friday night. But there are a million fans in the centre of Birmingham and we want to bring that young, multicultural atmosphere into Edgbaston.

"We can target local schools, local clubs, Birmingham businessman and women and more of the Asian community around the ground who spent a lot of time here during the ICC competition this year.

Councillor Ian Ward, deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, added: "The Birmingham Bears is an incredibly exciting proposition that can unite sports fans across the city on Friday evenings next summer.

"The club and the redeveloped stadium provide so many great opportunities for the local communities to play and watch world-class cricket here in Birmingham."