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No 101, Aug 20 - The Grumbler's County Cricket Newsletter
🟣 Finn and Vilas retire 💰 Is money the root of cricket's evils? 🟤 Moriarty moves to Yorks 🔵 Is the Metro Bank One-Day Cup being disrespected? 🟠 ECB on the ICEC report 🔴 Tom Graveney's ramp shot!
So, I have been thinking.
Thinking about cricket because I want to, thinking about the money in the game because I have to.
I listened to these podcasts on the development of the Premier League and the IPL respectively. They paint a bleak picture of their sports before the revolution came: shabby, sometimes sparsely attended and not fulfilling their potential despite a depth of support and interest.
Both had enjoyed first-mover advantage in the sports and both made key long-term decisions, such as giving away international media rights for next to nothing in the early days.
Regular readers will know I baulk at merely throwing money at players to grow cricket. This is what the Saudi League are doing in football, upsetting traditional power structures in the process. (See the Simon Jordan video)
However, history has proven that the strategic interest of those golden benefactors dissipates well before the reputation of the competition they support is permanently moved.
The IPL had heavy investment but it is built upon India's utter devotion to cricket and propelled through a Bollywood connection. The EPL is founded on Britain's similar passion for the beautiful game. This was strong enough to survive the lack of investment and poor fan experience in previous decades.
Even when the UK did not have the best football competition in the world, with Spain, Italy and Germany dominating the Champions League, we still enjoyed the most compelling spectacle because of the culture we had created over the centuries. 'The product' was then brilliantly televised, cleverly packaged and, crucially, revenues were relatively evenly distributed to ensure competition. In a new ‘attention economy’, the riches followed. So the EPL became the No1 League in the No1 sport, taking a greater stranglehold as the game globalised. As a result, English clubs have comprised seven of the last 12 Champions League finalists but are trying to limit their involvement in the earlier rounds of lesser domestic competitions in order to squeeze in longer pre-season tours in key markets.
English cricket will never have the money of the Indian game so, for me, these are our strategic strengths. Our unique selling point.
Therefore we should take extra care to grow a fanbase with deep roots. The television money that pays the players will emanate from that interest in the long term anyway. Unless I am reading it wrongly, Saturday's game between Tottenham v Man United was much more important than Al-Hilal v Al-Feiha earlier that afternoon. And it will remain that way for the foreseeable future. That should mean ploughing a fraction of the money back into sustaining and developing our game’s unique culture but, more importantly, respecting those who of us who protect and project it. In practice this means only playing the players, say, five or 10 per cent less. Put the difference back into your fanbase to widen, deepen and harden the foundations of the game.
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Alas, we are going the other way. Television has long since had undue influence on kick-off times in the EPL, salaries have skyrocketed and revenues have been gradually skewed more and more to the big sides since Leicester City crashed their cabal in 2015. In recent years, oil money has tilted the field still further. Man City have won five out of the last six Premier League titles and that historic treble seems destined to be repeated much more than once in a Blue Moon.
Surely, the only realistic route to saving the men's tournament-that-shall-not-be-named must involve throwing more money at players, when, in fact, the women deserve more given the relative interest they create.
Indian players only feature in the IPL while injuries, schedules and assorted other reasons have all served to dilute the talent pool still further. Last year, the Blast was almost equitable to you-know-what in the stars on show.
We are told that Jason Roy’s decision to scratch his England contract to take Major League Cricket money will be the first of many. That is almost certainly true. He will also be the first of many players in whom I have no attachment, whereas I am truly invested in the growth of Charlie Allison, Luc Benkenstein and Jamal Richards despite these youngsters turning out for Essex in a one-day tournament that may be in the midst of death by a thousand integrity cuts, see below.
Cheap tickets and free-to-air television will mean the you-know-what retains a pulse. It has to exist for now because of a unilateral deal with Sky because, well, that is what sport has become these days. But we still await a renewal from the BBC, its true positive influence. When it ends next week we have the same supporters and the same detractors. This agent of change remains nothing of the sort. Despite all the huff, puff and most of all bluff, true health and growth will be much more difficult to achieve.
When you create a tournament with no cultural foundations, based on being best-versus-best, you need to generate a whole stack of cash by spending a whole stack of cash because that is the only measurement against which you can possibly be judged. Perhaps this is why the ECB’s figures have been so opaque.
This is not to say money in sport is inherently bad, it is about how you use it. Just listen to those podcasts, cash has moved the needle for the IPL and EPL. But only because they were based on the firm foundations of tradition and culture.
Preserving those is not just romantic, it is the best sales pitch English sport can offer.
Also, I have set up a County Cricket Chat space on Reddit - r/CountyCricketChat
PPS I need to shift two tickets to the T20 international between England and New Zealand at Old Trafford on September 1. Face value price. Let me know if you are interested. Contact me here
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Metro Bank One-Day Cup
Oh and they are advertising for a new coach. But all this has not hurt their Metro Bank One-Day Cup campaign that much
Cox has undergone surgery and Kent are in a relegation fight in the Championship. While he is moving to Essex next season, the Canterbury side will need him for the final few games. Contracts are on the line if they go down. Can they claim compensation for this, like football teams can if players are injured on international duty?
Michael Barber is Somerset’s Chair
Dickson: "We are basically playing our Second Team against everyone else's First Team. And in saying that, we have competed in most of the games. In the short term, it may look bad, but in the long term it will build character and I hope our young players can pull through the other side better for it."
That is all true but the integrity of the competition is under threat here. One of the happy accidents of you-know-what is seeing young players come through. Like the big six Premier League clubs used the League Cup, ‘field the kids and sell it cheap’. But the second-strings of Liverpool and Arsenal etc normally put up very competitive games against everyone else. That is not the case among the counties. Hammerings harm credibility.
No, it isn’t.
We were told franchises in the tournament-that-shall-not-be-named were separate from host counties. But this signing pattern says something different. So does host county social media accounts posting about their resident franchises and offering free or cheap tickets as part of a membership. It all makes sense if you are the ECB but it is just another lie from the previous regime.
Player moves, retirements and other news
The Moriarty signing may suggest he moves on.
Dan Lawrence insists leaving Essex to join Surrey will give him the best chance of playing for England, as he opens up on his love of captaincy and being a 'massive fan' of the [tournament-that-shall-not-be-named] (Mail)
News, Views and Interviews
“I don’t think you would have seen Tom Graveney playing a ramp shot but the players were good enough to have adapted.”
I have no faith in Clare Connor after she dismissed calls for an independent regulator as “a misunderstanding” of the split in the regulation and commercialisation functions at the ECB in the press conference directly after the report was published.
From that, you can assume this critical change will be swept under the carpet. Even though the recommendation was that it should be achieved within a year.
For me, the report's real difference was its highlighting of class (see graphic below). In order for this to change, we need privately-educated people in power to be moved aside and let others lead. (It applies to journalism too).
I guarantee this will not happen.
They will concentrate on race and gender. While vitally important, I do not believe real change can come unless class is addressed.
Finally, I went to Kibworth CC last week to see Leicestershire v Essex. Outground cricket is the most marvellous version of our sport. The Oval is a fine stadium but there is nothing like walking within a few feet of third man after he has just sprinted for 20 yards to field the ball and hear him breathing heavily.
I wrote about it in The Cricket Paper at the weekend.
Finally, here’s a Facebook group some of you may enjoy - Old Cricket Photos, Scorecards and Club Memories
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