Northamptonshire’s Chairman, Gavin Warren discusses plans for the new T20 Competition
It was announced back in September that the English first-class counties had voted by a sizeable majority to give ECB the go-ahead to explore further a proposal for a new eight-team T20 competition.
This followed discussions involving the 18 counties, plus the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) and MCC.
Northamptonshire was one of the counties to vote in favour of the proposal to take the matter forward.
The plans have prompted a robust debate among cricket followers, with strong views expressed for and against.
To allow Steelbacks’ fans to have the best and latest available information, we sat down with Northamptonshire CCC’s chairman Gavin Warren to ask him a series of questions.
HOW FAR ADVANCED ARE THE PLANS FOR A NEW COMPETITION?
ECB is working through various work streams for the development of a new T20 competition, covering all aspects from governance and finance, cricket, commercial, participation and operations. Some initial recommendations and principles have been shared with the first class counties and more details will be shared in the new year.
WHY DO WE NEED A NEW ENGLISH T20 TOURNAMENT WHEN THE EXISTING NATWEST T20 BLAST IS BRINGING IN THE CROWDS?
The existing NatWest T20 Blast has done exactly what it set out to do and has succeeded in creating year on year increases in crowds for county cricket. However we believe that a new, fresh completion, to run in addition to a county T20 competition, can tap into new fan bases and broaden the consumption of cricket – particularly among a more diverse family audience. We also believe that a new T20 competition can generate significant new revenue to grow the game, improve participation and de-risk English cricket’s current financial reliance on international cricket.
WHY TRY AND COPY THE IPL AND THE ‘BIG BASH’ WHEN THE DEMOGRAPHIC IS SO DIFFERENT IN ENGLAND?
The intention is certainly not to copy the IPL or the Big Bash. ECB will look to create a new tournament bespoke to this country, whilst maintaining a flourishing County T20 competition. We would certainly not want to restrict T20 cricket to the bigger grounds and bigger cities. There are certainly learnings that ca be taken from both IPL and Big Bash – in particular how they have tapped into broader audiences – but any new competition will of course look to reflect the demographics of England and Wales.
WHY DID YOU SUPPORT THE IDEA OF A COMPETITION IN WHICH NORTHAMPTONSHIRE – THE REIGNING T20 BLAST CHAMPIONS – WOULDN’T BE PARTICIPATING?
Northamptonshire, like all counties, has to look at the big picture for cricket within England and Wales. What was important to the club was that a T20 competition remained in the annual cricketing calendar as the club recognises its popularity across the county and beyond, as well as having a proud record in that competition. The new competition will give Northamptonshire players the opportunity to compete with the very best in T20 on a regional basis, which ultimately could lead to more England selection for our players. Similar to the North V South series which is taking place in Dubai in March, where we are the most well represented club in the North Squad of the competition.
IF THERE ARE GOING TO BE TWO SEPARATE COMPETITIONS – WON’T THE ONE INVOLVING ALL 18 COUNTIES BE REGARDED AS A ‘SECOND-CLASS’ EVENT?
No – the two competitions will have very different roles and audiences. The County T20 competition will continue to be marketed to existing cricket fans and the new competition will be marketed to a broader family audience. The two competitions will be highly differentiated at every level – scheduling, team brands, playing squads, marketing, media distribution and operationally.
WILL THEY RUN AT THE SAME TIME – AND IF SO, WON’T THAT MEAN SOME OF OUR BETTER PLAYERS APPEARING FOR A DIFFERENT TEAM?
No the competitions will not run at the same time. The current recommendation is that the county competition runs from late May to mid-July and the new competition will take place primarily in August
IS THIS JUST ABOUT MONEY?
No. Whilst the ECB is confident that the new competition will bring in new revenues to the game, the primary objective is to broaden the consumption of cricket, and bring in the next generation of fans. This can be done by a different media distribution than we have for current cricket competitions and a more direct link to participation.
WILL THE NEW COMPETITION BE SHOWN ON TERRESTRIAL TV OR WILL IT ONLY BE AVAILABLE FOR SATELLITE SUBSCRIBERS?
The broadcast rights for the new competition have not been sold yet, but ECB believes that the new competition can potentially achieve a mix of free to air and pay TV broadcast, with additional digital coverage targeting the younger generation of fans.
IF, AS LOOKS LIKELY, THE NEAREST GROUND STAGING MATCHES IN THE NEW COMPETITION IS SOME DISTANCE FROM NORTHAMPTON – WHAT ABOUT OUR SUPPORTERS?
Venues for the new competition have not been decided yet.
MIGHT THIS NOT BE “THE THIN END OF THE WEDGE” – IF WE HAVE ONE COMPETITION THAT DOESN’T INVOLVE ALL THE 18 COUNTIES, WHAT’S TO STOP THE ECB LEAVING US OUT OF OTHERS?
It remains the ECB’s intention to have all 18 counties playing all formats of the game in the future.
WHEN WILL WE KNOW MORE ABOUT THE DETAIL?
ECB executives are currently working through further details with representatives from the first class counties and more details will be shared once recommendations have been agreed with the ECB board and other stakeholders.
Alex Wakely (25)
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