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Twenty20 franchises hold little appeal

Jonathan Agnew | 17:42 UK time, Friday, 11 July 2008

The blueprint that was handed to me today is only one of a number of proposals that the England and Wales Cricket Board will consider as it plots its course into a largely uncertain, but definitely exciting, future.

However, so radical is the concept of forming nine 'partners' - rather than franchises - based at the nine international cricket grounds in England and Wales that it has quickly caused a furious reaction from many within the game.

I have never felt that a franchise system would appeal to cricket lovers here.

Not only is there no attachment to a team from Birmingham if you live in Leicester, but Twenty20 cricket is so short, that any journey of more than an hour hardly makes the experience worthwhile.

Twenty20 Cup action

The organisers of the Indian Premier League have always maintained there is room for another similar tournament, and the men behind this scheme, the MCC's chief executive Keith Bradshaw and Surrey chairman, David Stewart, clearly feel their model, which is virtually a mirror-image of the IPL, would appeal to financers who, I understand, could raise up to $100m to bankroll it.

There would be a bidding process for a squad of up to 16 players, 12 of whom would have to be 'home grown' and three of whom would need to be youngsters, probably under 23 years old.

What will infuriate many at the ECB is the notion, at least, that this is a breakaway.

Small counties who are not fortunate enough to have international-quality grounds, already feel vulnerable in this quickly-changing climate, but they will certainly be reassured by Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, who categorically stated on Test Match Special that an 18 county-structure is safe under his tenure.

This proposal might well not see the light of day, but radical reform is on the way as the ECB desperately tries to cash in on the tremendous interest in Twenty20 cricket. It is not, however, old fashioned or pedantic to urge restraint and careful thought.

If handled carefully and sensibly, Twenty20 cricket can support and finance Test cricket for decades - but only if it is protected from its own success.

I fear that, all too quickly, we are careering towards saturation point and a golden opportunity will have been lost.


  • Comment number 1.

    Over an hour?!?

    Under this proposal, from where I live in Cornwall, the closest would be in Bristol, a decent 4 hours in each direction. So that would be 8 hours of travelling for all of about 2/3 hours play.. It's bad enough having to travel the 2 and a half hours each way trip to Taunton at the moment, let alone this added distance. Plus, with far greater areas being covered for each team the games will sell out much much faster, which is great for the teams, but terrible for the fans who will actually probably end up seeing less T20 cricket, rather than more.

    Let's hope that this proposal is quickly snuffed and one involving all of our first class cricketing counties is worked on instead.

  • Comment number 2.

    The energy and enthusiasm behind T20 is great to see, but Aggers is right - this is the wrong incantation of that energy. The ECB cannot just gor for a carbon copy blueprint based on a structure that was designed for another country. It needs to be melded into something that will benefit the existing English game and County system.

    Back to the drawing boards on this, but with no loss of energy I'd say, because if the right system can be designed, it would be a really exciting development for English cricket and may help spawn generations of new young players.

  • Comment number 3.


    Excellent and informed post as ever: The proposals are indeed radical, but there again the thought of this short form of cricket would have been considered radical ten years ago.

    The reality is, that the one constant we can rely on in life is change itself, and we either embrace it, or become isolated and get left behind.

    As it stands at the moment, the only two forms of cricket which are sustaining their popularity (and their profitability) - if not gaining - are International events and Twenty20.

    One last point: I think thousands of football fans across the country - rugby fans too, may disagree with:

    "..but Twenty20 cricket is so short, that any journey of more than an hour hardly makes the experience worthwhile."

    Jonathan Farrington

  • Comment number 4.

    "Small counties who are not fortunate enough to have international-quality grounds, already feel vulnerable in this quickly-changing climate"

    Well, get rid of them then. The county game should be geared around producing england players and not for benefiting the counties. If a few less well-off ones have to go then so be it. It would certainly see an improvement in the quality of english domestic cricket if the kolpak-loving leicestershires and northants etc. were chucked out- less mediocre sides bringing down the overall standard and intensity of cricket.

    If we are going to form an EPL kind of event it should use the existing counties, but say only 8 or 9 who qualify. The rest can compete in the existing Twenty20 Cup. That way the better teams would compete in the EPL each year (with a convenient number of teams) and the shoddy Division 2 Kolpak-dependents won't ruin it.

  • Comment number 5.


    I don't think you've done a full three minutes commentary on TMS all summer - regardless of whether a Test, ODI or Twenty20 is being played - where you haven't used your pulpit to let us all know how much you hate the shortest form. All interviews have started by demanding to know that the interviewee loves Test cricket and dislikes the short format.

    Is it too much to ask that you get a little balance. We know you can't stand it. I only hope you don't take the devil's shilling and do any radio commentary on it, write about it or attend any games. Nah, even as you complain about the money as if money in sport is an evil it won't stop you filling your boots.

  • Comment number 6.

    I know I've had my say already, but listening to virtually the whole TMS crew (especially all the old retired and evidently jealous ex-players) and their open disdain for Twenty20 has been totally dispiriting and really put me off your coverage.

    You've all even stooped to the level of newly respecting the 50-over game to try to still birth interest in T20 - even as you all used to mock the 50 over "pajama cricket" format. An enemy of an enemy, I guess.

  • Comment number 7.

    'but Twenty20 cricket is so short, that any journey of more than an hour hardly makes the experience worthwhile.'
    Dont football fans travel all over the country and even Europe for a game that is half as long?
    stupid point?

  • Comment number 8.

    But a football match is guaranteed to be played or called off hours before you set off. i would not travel more than an hour to a cricket game if the weather was dodgy or rains half way through. no comparison between travelling to a cricket and football match. this proposal is simple. The death of county cricket!!! this must not happen.

  • Comment number 9.

    Oh dear Aggers, you are getting addled in your old age. I think it would be best for all concerned if the BBC asked you to avoid commenting at all on any commercial activity.

    Odilphus is spot on, what exactly is it that the counties have that is worth protecting? They are clearly not producing the quality of players they should given our player base and is there something about empty grounds with a few old men and a dog watching that you wish to protect? There is no evidence that the existing (very small percentage) of cricket fans who actively follow county cricket will give up and ignore the Franchises. Plus they may get the large majority that currently only watch England to take interest in the domestic game. In addition, what about the new fans that will be attratced to the game if it has more money and a higher profile? Forget about the old farts Aggers and think about the revenues and new fans such a model could attract.

  • Comment number 10.

    I don't know if you recall something called 'London Monarchs'? Well, I seem to remember the European American Football League and how it was going to be the next big thing. It did okay, but the interest fizzled.
    This is what many detractors of 20/20 understandably worry about. If we end the county structure for 20/20 franchise/city teams then once those counties are gone they are gone and will be hard to bring back.
    20/20 is still a game that is in its infancy. We can't possibly tell if the novelty will wear off. I think there are problems with spectator appetite for 20/20. The first is the weather! Unpredictable weather is the bane of all cricket, but Britain with its cold evenings-even cold days isn't conducive. Imagine driving one hour to go see Manchester v Birmingham, paying 20 quid for a ticket and seeing a shortened 5/5 game-or no play at all. Will people spend their weekdays watching 20/20? These are all things which have not been answered by 20/20 cricket. So before selling the family silver we need to know if we can get the silver back one day.

  • Comment number 11.

    I for one will not be paying to watch a SL 2nd XI play England and be asked to pay an ever increasing full price ticket, to subsidise contracted players who are in all probability demanding a greater pay for themselves or, "they will go and play IPL etc"...

    So if the SL cricket board have offered to fulfil the vacancy created by Zimbabwe they should be made to send their best team. If their players have made commitments they should be compensated from the fee that presumably the SL cricket board have received to complete those fixtures. If they have made a bad business decision neither the SL players or the English public should be short-changed.

    Re the franchise 20/20 quite frankly who cares? The ECB are responding to world wide pressure for apparent demand. Not all the counties are selling out their 20/20 fixtures. Why would you travel to watch a 20/20 game unless you are close to the ground?

    Before cricket destroys itself and becomes a year long "slap and tickle" game confine 20/20 domestically and internationally to a very specific part of the calendar year and do not deviate from that plan. Otherwise the popularity of cricket will be segmented and dissipated as customers get bored of this type of game.

    Regarding Test Cricket English Cricketeers should be paid on results and it should not be a closed shop. Their wages should not be inflated because of external events. If they want to leave the test arena to play IPL let them go but do not welcome them back so readily.

    Regarding current selection Mr Vaughan is lucky that Mr Collingwood did not score runs (and he appeared to have a rough decision today to boot) otherwise he should have been making way when Flintoff returns (and Mr Bell is probably only around this far because Mr Giles is involved in the selection process) Michael stop hanging on so you can play the Ashes - if there are others at your level who are in form and playing better than you, it would be wise to exit gracefully. Atherton and Hussain had the right idea. Mr Alec Stewart did not.

    20/20 and domestic cricket generally has identified at least half a dozen batsmen who should be given a chance ahead of one of Vaughan, Bell and Colly in the test arena. Once progress into the Test arena is restricted the British public will soon lose interest should England have a poor run of games.

    Michael is a fine captain but only Brearley has managed to stay in the test arena and have a moderate test career relative to his colleagues. That does therefore not make you fireproof.

  • Comment number 12.

    If there is to be an 'IPL style' tournament in England then the Cricket authorities had better strike while the iron is hot. My observation as a member of one of the smaller Counties is that interest in Twenty20 is already on the wane.

    The main reason for the deteriorating support for Twenty20 appears to be over saturation.

    My message to those hoping to fill their boots (or wallets) by staging a tournament of this nature is: They may already be too late, as the core of County Cricket followers have had enough of the 'Tommy Steele stuff' (Smash Bang Wallop).

    Twenty20 is entertaining and a great introduction for those new to Cricket, but please, just give us a break from it every now and then.

  • Comment number 13.

    Twenty20 is a good point of entry for up and coming players, but it is essentially a dumbing down of the skills required in cricket proper.

    Indeed, an outright ban on First Class players [and certainly internationalists] from participation in Twenty20 would be to the benefit of the players in each form of the game.

  • Comment number 14.

    Aggers is right. It's how the T20 game will be implemented which is in question, not its very existance. We should all be cautious not to shoot the golden calf. The champions league puts all into perspective and Vaughan was mocked today on Sky for attempting to stick his thumb in the pie. What the paying customer wants, he or she gets. If enough folk turn up to watch test cricket in other countries, it will be OK. If not... It's the mix of formats which needs to be managed. I can see a future where the number of test-playing nations is actually reduced in favour of 50 and 20 over cricket for those that can't win/won't win test matches.

  • Comment number 15.

    The ECB have a golden opportunity to really open up the sport by running a competition open to all-comers. Imagine an FA cup style T20 tournament open to the minnows who go through a qualification process in order to join the elite teams in the final stages. Would this not serve cricket better rather than corralling off a set of super elite teams competing for a super rich prize? Imagine savouring a local cricket side going up against a county in same way that we look forward to Kidderminster knocking a Chealsea or Manchester United out of the FA Cup.

    How does the proposed elite nine teams playing in an exclusive competition serve to widen the cricketing audience? It appears to be self-serving and smacks of elitism that may only end up pushing cricket further out of reach of everyday people.

    Food for thought?

  • Comment number 16.

    As a member of smaller county (essex) posts such as those by oldiphus and mechanicalgogbill really get my goat. You obviously don't watch county cricket so what qualifies you to comment? The odd England match here and there watching the scores on teletext? So where do you think the likes of Cook and Bopara come from? Do they just turn up after a bit of a knock about in their garden asking Peter Moores for a game? Without the work that the counties do nurturing young talent there would be no England team.
    I won't comment on the 'one man and his dog remark' it is a cliche with litttle basis in fact. Instead lets talk about the thousands of kids that turn up for 20/20 games at Chelmsford, Hove, Wantage Rd and other grounds. Where is their role in the brave new world? Are they suposed to persuade Dad to take them to London,fork out god knows what for a ticket to watch the London Knights or whatever abomination they come up with. No these kids will be turned away from cricket to the detriment of the long term game.

    On the bright side the brains behind this little scheme are making a couple of mistakes. Firstly the scope for an EPL is nowhere near as big as they think. The IPL succeeds because cricket in India is a religion. In England it is a minor sport. Secondly they underestimate the power of county supporters. I would suggest that at least 50% of attendees at T20 games support their county in other forms of the game. This section of the crowd are not going to be interested in watching franchise cricket and in my view there is not enough interest in the barmy army football supporting lager brigade to support a league of this size. Particularly when up against the bi-annual International Football tournaments. So if, God forbid, it does get the go ahead it will hopefully be a big flop.

    Rant over.

  • Comment number 17.

    The latest EPL plan is a missed opportunity - Good that Pro 40 will go. Good that the EPL is in June only to allow for Test cricket in July/August - bad that it shores up mediocre County Cricket (50 over game, all current counties and not Regional first class cricket to prepare better for tests)

    Bradshaw was not radical enough...this is even less so

    Mike Solihull

  • Comment number 18.

    A missed opportunity - Good that Pro 40 will go. Good that the EPL is in June only to allow for Test cricket in July/August - bad that it shores up mediocre County Cricket (50 over game, all current counties and not Regional first class cricket to prepare better for tests)

    Bradshaw was not radical enough...this is even less so


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