Thursday, 15 September 2016

An open letter to the ECB

Dear ECB,

As a county cricket fan and someone that has played, followed and write on the game of cricket, I would like to say on behalf of 90% of cricket fans in England and Wales, what a monumental cock up you have made by voting for the City based T20 competition.

Obviously there are some people in the media with a vested interest - generally those who work for broadcasters or those with links to Sky or the Murdoch empire. They have been outspoken in the quest for the competition. Naturally, I don't have to be a psychic like Doris Stokes or even Ben Stokes to work out which broadcasting corporation is going to win the rights to it.

For me, yesterday was the day that English cricket sold its soul. With our football leagues, that have been glammed up since 1992 and told that we have a world class product, only to go out to the might of Iceland in a big tournament, I can now see cricket going the same way. The product will not get any better, yet the hyperbole will be outrageous as you try and make this competition work. I look back to the days of Kerry Packer and how players were vilified and stopped from earning a living in certain cases, yet I don't see the difference in this breakaway format.

Who are these new fans that this competition is going to encourage? All I can see is that you have alienated half of the existing client base - surely a poor business model for any organisation? Can you see cricket fans in the far flung corners of the UK such as Canterbury, Taunton or Swansea (knowledgeable cricket loving people may I hasten to add), travelling sixty or seventy miles to watch a manufactured competition that has no historical value? Even I, as someone who lives 7 miles from Lord's, will not be attending the North London Moneygrabbers or whatever manufactured name the new team are given.

Canterbury...out on a limb

Ah but then again the existing fans don't matter. It's these new fans that you are interested in, of course. Or the television rights that will mean that the paying customer on the gate becomes obsolete?

Other questions that I would like answered is why all the secrecy? Why was there a non disclosure agreement so that counties couldn't ask their membership (the paying customer) their thoughts? Was this because you knew that 90% of the public didn't want this competition? Why was there such a rush to get this format through? Why was there not a consultative approach with anyone to get the format and broadcasting rights - or has this all been done behind closed doors?

And to the counties. What on earth have you done? You turkeys have voted for Christmas. I know some of you are skint at present but look back at Leeds United back at the turn of this century. Leeds mortgaged their season tickets for a number of years so that they could gain short term. They took a few quid myopically, but the agony is still there. Their gamble spectacularly backfired, leaving them a shadow of their former selves and causing 15 years of pain for their loyal support. The fans stayed loyal as will cricket fans but they were shafted, royally. Many of the counties have financial problems - Durham, Northants plus a few more. Short term you may be okay now but in four years time, please don't come crying when one of you goes out of business.

Christmas anyone?

Take another sport and let's look at Welsh rugby. The regions here have been full of bickering and politics leaving the best players to look elsewhere to play in the premier European competition. The city based franchise in cricket has a business model on a similar basis, yet English rugby - a model that stayed with the traditional clubs, now has a European champion.

For me, you have made the T20 competition in its current format like the League Cup in football. There will also be ramifications for the four day game. Will the likes of Leicestershire be able to bring through the next Stuart Broad in ten years time without the funding of T20, despite a few quid in the bank in the near future? So therefore the national side will suffer.

Don't worry. We'll still be here in a few years. We will buy the satellite dishes, we will pay over the odds for a day to watch our national side, we will pay a fiver for a pint because you have made the counties bid so much for an average Test match in May. We might have had our history taken from us but county members will have a vote at their clubs AGM's.

I for one, think yesterday was the day that English cricket sold its soul to television. And that is a sad day for sport.

Yours wistfully,

Dan Whiting