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THE DEBATE: NOW THE CITY T20 HAS BEEN GIVEN THE GREEN LIGHT FROM 2020 ONWARDS, WHAT DO THE MEDIA’S BIG GUNS THINK?

The good, the bad, and the sceptical...

Good

Simon Hughes (The Cricketer)

The figures are alarming. Only two per cent of five to 10-year-olds in this country say cricket is their favourite sport. This is a generation which has never seen live (English) cricket on free-to-air TV (not surprisingly, kids of that age I have spoken to watch the IPL, which was on free to air until two years ago, but not much else).They are the future. So how do we get them interested? Create an IPL-type competition featuring world and English stars played in a block in midsummer, every day and at the same time – establishing regularity – and get at least some of it live on free-to-air (plus weekly highlights). That will create a buzz and an audience. BBC Sport bosses’ eyes glaze over when you mention the word ‘county’. They cannot sell anything played by counties to their channel controllers, who are looking for 2m viewers minimum for peak time.  That is why we need new teams. The others we need to attract are women (85 per cent of primary-school teachers are female). Well-marketed and staged T20 (minimising laddishness) in decent venues will attract women and families and rejuvenate the game.

Scyld Berry (Telegraph)

Unlike almost every previous initiative by our governing body, this one is based on research. Clubs and teams are closing down as never before – and a new competition which appeals to women and children is essential. Otherwise every county except Surrey will wake up bankrupt with a 48-point penalty. 

John Etheridge (The Sun)

Will people care about invented teams? Will counties die? Will there be sufficient FTA matches to establish a compelling narrative and what about T20 overkill? Oh, and what if it rains for a month? Sure, there are plenty of worries about the new T20. But it is a risk worth taking. Cricket needs a fresh, young audience and terrestrial TV. The Blast isn’t doing that. Give it a go. If an event feels big – salaries, players, crowds - people will attend and interest will snowball. Come on opponents, don’t be a bunch of dinosaurs.

 

New tournament will follow in the footsteps of Australia Big Bash

Dean Wilson (Daily Mirror)

I hope and believe it will be hugely successful. There is a lot of attention on the money, but ultimately if it swells numbers in the next generation of fans and players it will have worked. It is a nonsense to think people will not support new teams – look at Wasps’ move to Coventry. Quality is paramount. The players must be the best in the business, the matches closely fought, the competition easy to follow. The kits, music, fan engagement and everything else that goes into a three-hour show must be first class. I hope to see one or two Indians in it. Hope for balmy evenings!

Gideon Brooks (The Express)

The Graves–Harrison axis deserves credit for driving through a minefield. Just about the only negative is the reliance on good weather. Aside from that, what’s not to like? Fresh TV coverage including free-to-air, a mega-bucks renegotiated deal, and a newly minted tournament with an uninterrupted narrative which can supplement the audience T20 gets (thirsty Friday night revellers) and the audience it needs (families).

James Coyne (The Cricketer)

I am 31, and in my lifetime cricket has fallen from the height of the Botham era of the early 1980s to a niche pursuit of the white middle-class and South Asian communities; meanwhile Britain has been transformed into a truly cosmopolitan society. I am not sure the 18-county T20, allocated on a Victorian geographical basis and on boozy nights out, is drawing in enough uninitiated parents and kids. But a new T20 competition – in the holidays, in urban centres, shown free, and with the best players guaranteed for the duration –
just might.

 

The ECB will hope to attract stars such as Australia's Aaron Finch

Sceptical

Vic Marks (The Guardian)

Yes, we need a vibrant domestic T20 to sustain the game and catch the eye. No, I have little confidence that the ECB proposals provide this. Having two T20 events in 2020 running through June, July and August provides an ill-balanced domestic schedule. The Blast, the mediocre one, will probably wither and fade so expect more upheavals circa 2023. The promised annual inducement of £1.3m to the counties (and MCC) betrays these uncertainties. Most clubs lack the financial independence to even consider opposition to an unimaginative plan. Hence there has been little objective argument and much sleepwalking. Unlike Australia, England does not have just six conurbations, spacious walk-up grounds, a balmy climate and guaranteed terrestrial coverage. Great chunks of the populace will have a reduced chance of watching T20 in 2020 – though there is now a belated acknowledgement free-to-air is important. The number of alienated fans is likely to exceed new ones. We are assured that the marketeers can sell anything. Well, some of the £25m of inducements tossed out each year by the ECB could have been used to promote an enhanced Blast.

Paul Newman (Daily Mail)

I used to be all for a city T20 but the more I hear about it the more worried I am. I worry about the clash with Tests meaning England players won’t feature often enough; I worry supporters will  be pushed to one side in the search for this mythical ‘new’ audience; and I worry about the difficulties in attracting the best overseas players. I’d much prefer a two-division English Premier League featuring all 18 counties, crucially, with the investment and marketing that is going into a new tournament. It’s almost as though ECB want the Blast to fail now….

Huw Turbervill (The Cricketer)

Something had to be done. Since 2005, cricket has produced too few ‘water-cooler moments’ in the UK. Joe Root and Ben Stokes should be more high-profile – superstars, up there with Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff. Sky do a sterling job, but that means some terrestrial coverage. English cricket needs a five-week equivalent to the Big Bash or IPL, to encourage players like Quinton de Kock to attend. I thought a city T20 was therefore the answer, but now I am not so certain two county divisions would not be better. Research that franchises begun from scratch do not work in the UK worries me. I also feel for the Blast; crowds are rising and a survey has shown its popularity is growing. Now it is airbrushed out of history. Swathes of the country, north of Leeds, east of Chelmsford and south of The Oval, will also be unrepresented.

 

Gun for hire: Brendon McCullum in action for Brisbane Heat

Bad

George Dobell (ESPNCricinfo)

It’s an unnecessary risk. While I applaud the ECB for recognising some of the challenges, many of the benefits of a new competition could be replicated by relaunching the existing one as a two-division tournament with promotion, relegation and free-to-air. Let’s not forget the growth – 63 per cent in four years based on a predictable schedule that does not require too much of at-ground spectators – of the existing tournament. This new-team event compromises both other formats – the best 110 white-ball players will be unavailable for 50-over games; the Championship is pushed ever more into the margins of the season, which is compromising the development of spinners – and will not involve the best players from England (Test duty), West Indies (clashes with CPL) or India (BCCI protectionism). Most of all, it risks pushing half the first-class counties into irrelevance. If the aim was really to grow the game, why don’t the ECB give it away to FTA? And if the motives are so good, why the need for NDAs and the lack of engagement with existing spectators?

Tom Collomosse (Evening Standard)

I am wary. However much you copy the Big Bash, you can’t import Aussie weather. Are families, newbies and casual fans going to be as keen to sit outside for an evening, watching a sport they may not know much about, if the temperature is 10-15 degrees rather than 25-30? We need as much as possible on free-to-air TV or a non-subscription model. What is the use of a new tournament if the only people able to watch every game are those who can afford to pay for it?