City-based Twenty20 moves step closer – and is ‘not a gamble’

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T20 tournament ‘future-proofs’ county game – ECB chief tells BBC’s Dan Roan

English cricket’s new eight-team, city-based Twenty20 tournament moved a step closer on Monday as further details were revealed.

The newly created tournament is proposed to begin in 2020.

England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison said it could rival the Indian Premier League and was “not a gamble” for the counties.

“What we are doing here is future-proofing county cricket,” Harrison told BBC sports editor Dan Roan.

“I don’t think it’s so much a gamble, I think it’s about looking into the future and saying, ‘What do we want our business and our game to look like?'”

A referendum is expected to be dispatched on Tuesday inviting stakeholders to sanction a tournament including eight teams, rather than the 18 first-class counties.

What is changing?

On Monday, the ECB presented a detailed overview of its proposals for a new Twenty20 competition to its 41 members. These included:

  • Eight new teams playing 36 games over a 38-day summer window, with four home games per team
  • All games televised, with significant free-to-air exposure
  • No scheduling overlap with the existing T20 Blast competition
  • An Indian Premier League-style play-off system to give more incentive for finishing higher up the league
  • A players’ draft, with squads of 15 including three overseas players
  • Counties guaranteed £1.3m

Why does the ECB want to change?

It says cricket has the chance to be part of “mainstream conversation” and believes the new competition can make the sport “relevant to a whole new audience”.

Following a period of consultation including more than 10,000 interviews, the ECB decided on three key principles:

  • To have a major positive impact on driving participation
  • To focus on recruiting the next generation of fans, in particular promoting attendance to a diverse, young, family audience
  • To ensure complete differentiation from existing cricket tournaments to protect and support the future of the county game

“What we absolutely need to do, is start appealing to a younger audience,” said Harrison.

“We know that by doing things differently, by building new teams, we can be relevant to a whole new audience and bring this very diverse, multicultural Britain in to our stadiums in a way perhaps we haven’t been successful in doing.”

Is this the end of county cricket?

This will be the first time in the history of domestic cricket that first-class counties are not represented, hence the need for a change to the ECB’s articles and constitutions.

It was confirmed on Monday that all 18 clubs have signed “media rights deeds” to allow the governing body to include the new Twenty20 in their forthcoming broadcast portfolio.

Asked if the move to a city-based format signalled the end of the county system, Harrison said: “Not at all. I think what we are doing here is future-proofing county cricket.

“Cricket has been a sport which has always had the ability to evolve and change where it’s needed to, and its shown itself to be incredibly adaptable.

“We are the sport which came up with short formats through T20, and other sports have been trying to find the T20 equivalent of their own.

“So we have demonstrated we are capable of it, we’ve got the format, we now just need to create the competition which enables these new fans to get involved.

“It’s a hugely exciting moment.”

Questions remain about schedule and players

Chris Gayle<!–

Chris Gayle has spent the past two Twenty20 Blast seasons with Somerset

The ECB says the proposed competition can rival the incredible success of the Indian Premier League and Australia’s Big Bash, which draws average crowds of more than 28,000.

Questions remain around where the tournament will fit into the schedule, and which of the world’s best players will be available.

The ECB insists it will not impact on the T20 Blast, which last season featured the likes of West Indies star Chris Gayle and New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum.

“We think there’s a lot of room for growth in the Blast,” said Harrison. “It’s done a tremendous job at bringing in a county cricket audience.

“But the evidence we have suggest cricket exists in a bubble and we’ve got to get outside this bubble.”

He added the tournament could “absolutely” rival the IPL,

‘It will be a roaring success’ – analysis

Former England captain Michael Vaughan on BBC Radio 5 live

Cricket needs that moment in this country that changes the way we talk and think about the game. It’s got to be good for the game.

The key to the Big Bash is being seen. Every single person in Australia can see every single ball. Cricket is now the number one sport in Australia.

Where the Big Bash has had huge success is they make sure the fan experience is key, and almost the cricket is secondary. The fans, and it’s about 50-50 between men and women, and the kids, they all go home having had a great time.

The only thing in terms of a county perspective is this new tournament will be a massive juggernaut, get loads of marketing and the county game may say: ‘Why didn’t we get that support?’

This board of the ECB, I feel, are very visionary. You are going to get some terrific teams. I believe it will be a roaring success.

England Test captain Joe Root on BBC Radio 5 live

It’s a very good idea. It’s great to see it’s been given some thought. Look at some of the other competitions in the world and they’ve been very successful.

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