Guest Post – Free To Air – The Silver Bullet?

While your friendly blog administator has been lording it up in the bars of Central London, having a whale of a time, Sean B has been working on a guest post for us…..

Fire away Sean…. and many thanks!

FTA – The Silver Bullet?

Much as been made recently of the BBC’s decision to omit any of the Ashes winning England cricket team from Sport Personality of the Year this year, and whilst most are in agreement that SPOTY is but a relic, designed to carry favour with the few sports that the BBC still has left, there has also been general consent that this is a worry for the future of the game. There have been a number of excellent articles written about this, George Dobbell’s piece being the best in my opinion – http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/story/947713.html, and hence I don’t want to cover old ground by focusing too much on this. However I do feel there is more of a piece that needs to be covered around what and if we can possibly do to try and breathe live back into a sport, which for all intensive purposes is struggling to win both the hearts and minds of the British public.

 

A sensible and much heralded opinion is that the sport has declined in popularity since the end of FTA coverage and the move to Sky, where only those with deep pockets have been able to watch both domestic and international cricket for the past decade. Don’t get me wrong, as much as I think Sky’s coverage of cricket on the whole is excellent (if you take out Nick Knight and Dominic Cork it would be so much better); however their viewing figures compared to the last major series on FTA speak for themselves – In 2005 an average of 2.5m watched the Ashes series on a daily basis with FTA access on Channel 4, with 8.4m people transfixed by the climax of the fourth Test compared to just over 460,000 who watched the final day of the first (and only vaguely competitive) Test of the 2015 series. That is not just a big drop off, that is a complete haemorrhage of cricket viewers.

 

This has cascaded down further, there are plenty of figures that show the popularity of the sport has also been in sharp decline for the past few years now, with The ECB participation survey highlighting that 844,000 participated in the game in 2014 compared to the 908,000 in 2013 and by Sport England’s own figures that show a decline of just over a third from 2006-2014. I, like most others would welcome the return of some cricket to FTA, even if I think the possibility of this ever happening is incredibly remote (Rupert Murdoch is not renowned for his corporate social responsibility and Sky’s model has always been around locking in big sporting events); however I’m not overly convinced by those arguments that make this the one silver bullet, that will return cricket to it’s heyday of 2005, it seems to be a far too simplistic argument to me. I believe there are a number of factors in place here, some fairly obvious, some far more nuanced, that need to take place before we can see both viewing and participation figures start to head in the opposite direction.

 

I will happily concede the FTA coverage of the England cricket team, was probably the main reason why I came in contact and started to love the sport. I had no real reason to come into contact with cricket whilst I was growing up, my family are Irish (before cricket got popular over there) and had no interest in the sport. My old man loved football and hence I was taken to football to play in a team at an early age. I also went to a primary school with a small concrete playground and no playing fields, so really the signs weren’t promising that I would ever come in contact with cricket as a sport. This is where FTA coverage was great for me. The summer used to be a barren time with no football, wet summer holidays spent in the UK (certainly in my younger years) and an inordinate amount of boredom if I was stuck inside. I would literally watch any sport – cricket, tennis and sometimes even golf (though that was pushing it a bit) to keep me pre-occupied until the football season started again. As with anything, the more I watched cricket, the more I got to understand it and the more I got to enjoy it, even if watching the England team throughout the 90’s was viewed by many as sheer masochism. This was how I got into the sport and I was absolutely delighted when my old man caved in and bought Sky in 1993 as he missed the Premiership too much (we had spent a couple of years pretending Italian football on Channel 4 was the best league in the world), which meant that I could also start to watch some of the Away tests that Sky was showing as well as feeding my own love of English football.

 

However, one of my main complaints about the FTA argument is that we’re basing the argument on our own experiences of coming into contact with the game, which in my case is around 25 years ago and certainly not how today’s generation Y or Z (or whatever generation the children of today are, I’ve lost count) would consume content. If I use an example of my Niece and Nephew, who don’t even watch the TV anymore unless there is a film on or they have been told to leave their iPad’s at home. The generation of today can pretty much download any content at any time they want to and hence as a result, attention spans I would guess are shorter than they once were. If they start watching something or playing a game and get bored, then they can switch to watching something else whereas I had 4 channels and snoopy tennis to keep me amused as a child, so you generally stuck with things more, even the slightly more tedious passages of play when Australia were thumping our bowlers to all parts.

 

The major challenge with all sport, but cricket even more so, is that the cricket players and fans of the future don’t consume information the same way we did at their age, nor looking at Sport England’s figures, do they participate in as much sporting activity as we did 10-20 years ago. I strongly believe you could have shown all of the Ashes tests on BBC One throughout the summer and the demographics of those watching wouldn’t have particularly changed (yes you would get greater numbers with an influx of non-Sky subscribers, but I doubt you would have got too many new fans). I totally agree that we need to open up the sport so more can actively watch games and hopefully look to emulate those at the top of the game (and I believe Sky could help by potentially selling 5 day tickets for £20 on their On Demand Access service) but feel that FTA is but a part of the solution and there needs more focus to stream both live games and comprehensive highlights, especially of T20 games, through the web as it will likely to garner more interest with those who have yet to come in contact with the game. Access is king here and FTA, whilst something I would very much welcome, is only part of the solution.

 

Another major aspect (and in my opinion of far greater consideration) is how do we get people playing the game again. Football has the monopoly here. It is a sport that is supported across the world and on the whole easier and cheaper to get kids playing it, even with sport participation dwindling massively over the past few years. I started playing football when I was 6, partly because my parents enjoyed the sport and partly because it was a lot cheaper to buy me a football and some football boots and to let me run off some of my youthful energy. You can also play football pretty much anywhere and me and my friends did as kids.

 

Cricket is more difficult, it is more expensive to buy equipment, less prominent in the majority of schools and has less of a fan base to operate with than say football, as most children will take up the sport of their parent preference. Again, If I go back to my own experiences as a child, I had never really had that much urge to play the game despite enjoying watching it on FTA. We never had a cricket games at primary and secondary school and my only real experience was playing it in the large garden of mutual friend, whose father was passionate about the game. In the end, I was lucky enough to befriend the captain of the town’s under 12 cricket team, who were always on the look out for more players and was invited down to see if I could play (thankfully I had pretty good hand-eye co-ordination and was lively in the field, which meant I got in the team fairly quickly, although my dream of being the next Shane Warne never really made it past first base). I played cricket all the way through my teens and then in various 2nd XI’s into my late twenties, as although, I wasn’t actually that good but could bowl and bat a bit, I still really enjoyed playing the game and was happy to give up parts of my weekend to play.

 

My point here is that I wouldn’t have had the exposure or chance to play if I hadn’t made friends with the captain of the local team as the access to the sport, especially at state school level where most don’t have a chance to play cricket, is incredibly poor. The crux of the matter is that we will continue to see participation drop, if we do not give more opportunities to those not from the previous hotbeds of cricket (i.e. those that might not have been traditionally viewed as prime cricket material) and this in turn will result in fewer people taking up the game, more cricket clubs closing because they can’t field an XI and eventually a mighty old headache for the ECB, when people stop paying top dollar to attend England test matches as people lose interest.

 

As much as I find the ECB an insipid and quite frankly an out of touch organization, even they are beginning to wake up to this fact. David Hopps’ article on the appointment of Matt Dwyer, the ECB’s director of participation and growth is an interesting piece –http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/story/950475.html, and highlights some of the real challenges that the sport is currently facing. Cricket more than ever, is the preserve of the wealthy and those that can afford to send their children to Private School. Without doing any particular research, I would guess that most of those currently playing in the England cricket team went to Private School and thereby had access to the facilities that those of us who didn’t, would only dream about (I remember as a kid, my team managed to negotiate 2 winter net sessions a season at the local private school and we felt lucky that we were able to do so.) The Chance to Shine programme, though laudable, has yet to really take off and has only really scratched the surface in engaging children to start playing the sport and needs to be ramped up significantly. We need somehow to get this on the national curriculum otherwise cricket will continue to be a sport of the elitist and local facilities and clubs will continue to be ripped up and shut as many local authorities and schools look to cut their cloth in a world of continued financial hardships. This is both the biggest challenge and opportunity for the ECB, although whether Matt Dwyer and the ECB are up to the challenge is a question in itself, I do wish them good luck though.

 

The final piece of the puzzle in getting more people engaged in the sport is also by having the opportunity to watch it live. I went to my first test match in 1999, when I was studying at University (or supposed to have been and was lucky my next door neighbor suddenly found himself with a spare ticket) and have attended at least 2 games per year for the last 16 years since. I’ve also been out to watch England tour a couple of times, which I’m sure the ECB are grateful to me in help swelling their coiffures during this time, even if there gratitude normally extends to raising the price of tickets for the following summer. My main observation though is that now it is pretty much impossible to take a family to a Test Match these days unless you have a lot of money to burn (circa £250 for a family of four is mind wateringly expensive). It is getting rarer and rarer to see a parent and their children at one of the test games these days and unfortunately I really can’t see this changing in the short term. The ECB, like myself, understands the metrics of supply and demand and in the majority, though perhaps not this year, the demand has outstripped the supply, hence the ability to charge obscene prices for both tickets and refreshments in the ground. This is where I feel county cricket can come in and help fill the void. As my article earlier in the year suggested, I don’t feel that county cricket is in the rudest of health and I certainly don’t think it helps itself in many cases. That said, I do think that this is the easiest, cheapest and most accessible place to get more people involved with the game (and not just those that turn up on a Friday night at the T20’s to try and shove as much beer down their throats as humanly possible) with a few changes to the schedule and structuring.

 

Now I hadn’t planned when I was first thinking about writing this article about wading into the T20 debate, but the more I think about it, the more essential I feel that this is to the health of the game. As I mentioned in my last paragraph, the T20 blast, which should be the easiest way of getting kids into watching the game, is now largely a no go because of the scheduling of all games on a Friday night. I went to 5 T20 Blast games last year and many of them (especially those at the Oval) would be the last place where I would want to take young children as half of the crowd have decided that it’s a prelude for heavy drinking and as a result, increasingly we are starting to seeing more drink induced episodes of violence, which has no place at the cricket, or anywhere else in my mind. Now don’t get me wrong, there are a number of games that I attended in my twenties where some of the action after tea was a bit of a blur, but it was all pretty good humored and very different to the atmosphere at some T20 games (interestingly, I found the out-grounds to be far more welcoming with a nice mix of young and old, make of that what you will). Nor do I blame the Counties in driving through their desire to have all of the T20 blast games on a Friday, as it’s a great money spinner and indeed essential to some for their continued survival; however the current format of the tournament is a logistical nightmare for Players and Broadcasters alike and in my opinion is of a lower quality to those T20 leagues player around the world (and judging from the comments of the England ODI captain, it looks like the players are in agreement). The more I think about it, the more I feel that we need to embrace a franchise league played in 5/6 weeks over the Summer holidays. Now I understand that this might be seen as heresy in some quarters, but my the two main reasons underpinning my thoughts on this are that:

 

  • Firstly every game can be aired on TV including some kind of FTA/streaming capacity to be able to better reach the masses so that we don’t get the farcical situation of only a couple of thousand people being able to see Chris Gayle smash the ball around at Taunton or watch Glen Maxwell, Brendon McCullum and other world class T20 players that could inspire a generation.
  • Secondly, by basing this tournament around the Summer holidays and with games scheduled at different times of the day with a sensible pricing policy, then there will be opportunities for all types of cricket fans to attend the games, not just those who see it as a chance to drink a lot of beer on a Friday night.

 

This I believe would help open up the sport to a whole different range of supporters especially with the carrot of being able to watch and hopefully then try to emulate more world class superstars who I feel, would be far more attracted to come over and play in a shortened tournament as well as likely increasingly the skill level of the competition – a win-win for both fans and players alike.

 

I also believe the four day game has a part to play in this too, although the scheduling and cost doesn’t help at all at the moment. There has to be a movement by the counties for getting the majority of the games back to starting on a Saturday, when they are most accessible for both those that work and those that have families. The move to Sunday or even Monday starts has meant that it is increasingly difficult to view county cricket, whether you are sold on it’s merits or not, and seems to me to be completely at odds with trying to attract a new audience to the game (as well as increasing attendances for the most difficult format “to sell” to the public.) It’s all very well pointing to increased attendances in cricket http://www.skysports.com/cricket/news/12123/10076035/cricket-attracts-record-crowds-for-domestic-and-international-games, although I think there are many factors here with these statistics (and some that aren’t as perhaps as wholesome as we would like), I’d be very surprised if the demographics of those attending those games, especially the county games, have changed at all. I also believe that the pricing for the games is wrong, with it being relatively expensive for a family to come down and watch a day of county fair (£20 for adults and £12 for children, I believe at Lords). Why not introduce a family ticket for £30 whereby 2 adults and up to 2 children can come and watch the cricket for a day? This would surely make more sense as it will firstly mean a fairly inexpensive day out for a family, build more atmosphere inside the ground and most importantly, provide access to live cricket of a decent quality for a broader audience.

 

In summary, there are a few fundamental changes that need to be made in my opinion, some of which can be done in the short term and some that will take longer, mainly due to contractual obligations:

 

  • A franchise T20 competition to take place over 5/6 weeks during the Summer holidays with fair ticket pricing and ability to watch free of charge over YouTube or another similar site
  • Most county games to start on a Saturday with a fairer pricing policy including family tickets
  • The ECB to commit to double it’s spend on grass routes cricket inclusive of investing in pitches and equipment to both cricket clubs and also to show a commitment to invest in cricket at state school level
  • FTA access to at least 1 ODI and 1 T20 International per series – this can be done via one of Sky’s intermediary channels such as Pick TV
  • £20 Sky Access TV tickets to watch a test match in its’ entirety, £10-£15 tickets for ODI’s and T20 Internationals

 

Now these are simply my opinions and many may will disagree with them, but one thing is for certain is that we can’t simply sit back and hope the current status quo magically produces a new wave of cricket fans, it simply isn’t going to happen, even in Colin Grave’s wildest dreams. The foundations of the ivory towers in which the ECB currently presides are starting to look as unstable as they have ever been and one only needs to look at the current state of West Indies cricket as a reminder that blind faith counts for very little when you ignore the most pressing of problems. Now I do hasten to add, that I’m not trying to directly compare the current situation of West Indies cricket with that of English cricket, the WICB has the unenviable position of making the ECB look like a bastion of a sensibility and a well run cricket board in the extreme, an unenviable achievement in itself; however both have had the same problem, albeit the West Indies on a far quicker scale than in England, in that they are governing a sport that has experienced a serious decline in popularity. The ECB aren’t staring at the precipice just yet, but the cliff is beginning to crumble beneath their feet.

 

Giles Clarke may have blustered “that Test cricket was in rude health” in the film Death of a Gentleman, but it was just that, desperate bluster. I believe that his decision to sell most of the other cricket nations down the river in his support of creating the big three is almost a “King Canute” situation, desperate to repel the tied, but who’s only answer is play against Australia and India more and in the hope that it might buy him a few more years and boost the coiffures. It indeed might, but I’m not sure it will, it seems like a desperate attempt by a desperate board to make as much money as they can whilst the sun shines; Very soon, the cricketing public will become blasé about another Ashes series or another series against an uncompetitive Indian team (I think it’s closer than anyone at the ECB actually thinks) and will vote with their feet. As I mentioned earlier on in the piece, the ECB has a rudimentary grasp on supply and demand and this may well spring them into some much needed action, after all, no punters, no queue of companies offering to sponsor “Hydration breaks” and a big hit in the ECB’s pocket. The strong ivory tower that the ECB thought they constructed might well have foundations made out of sand after all.

 

Cricket in England is in decline unfortunately and whilst not in a death spiral just yet, there are plenty of reasons to be very concerned. Unless there is radical and fundamental change in the way cricket is administered in England and in the way that new fans are brought into the game, then cricket risks becoming a relic, mourned by the traditionalists, but largely irrelevant to the rest of modern society. Over to you Colin and Tom, no pressure chaps…

 

@thegreatbucko

 

My thanks to Sean – I’ve not edited the piece as I want to encourage people to take these things on themselves. I’m sure he’d be happy to hear comments from you, so fire away!

 

Just a couple more parties for me. Will be back soon.

Dmitri

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42 thoughts on “Guest Post – Free To Air – The Silver Bullet?

  1. Danny December 17, 2015 / 9:54 pm

    “Without doing any particular research, I would guess that most of those currently playing in the England cricket team went to Private School and thereby had access to the facilities that those of us who didn’t, would only dream about”
    According to a quick check on Wikipedia (so take this with a pinch of salt) 10 of the 17 players in the England Test squad in South Africa were privately educated. That would be Bairstow, Ballance, Broad, Buttler, Compton, Cook, Hales, Jordan, Patel and Taylor. Looking at that list the only batsman privately schooled is Root, which makes me wonder if the benefits of earlier coaching don’t really affect bowlers as much.

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  2. d'Arthez December 18, 2015 / 10:01 am

    Now, obviously I am not a Briton, so take everything I write about ticket pricing in the UK with a pinch of salt.

    I do seem to recall there was a wide variance in pricing for tickets in the counties. If memory serves some of the less “flashy” counties (such as Somerset), had fairly decent ticket pricing schemes for families. Pity they’re in the wrong end of England to just drop in on, when you’re visiting the country as a tourist, and don’t happen to live in the area.

    I actually looked into attending a Test in the UK a few years ago (for just one day), while I was there. The fees were extortionate. For the same money I could basically attend an entire Test series in South Africa (excluding accommodation, but since I was a tourist in the UK as well, including accommodation is not going to help matters). In fact if you want to attend a full SA-England Test, it might be cheaper for England supporters to fly out to Johannesburg or Cape Town and attend a Test there, than it is to do so at Lord’s.

    It is a difficult conundrum. South Africa also has issues with regards to participation and accessibility of the sport, despite having FTA transmission of a fair number of fixtures (assuming the SABC have not messed that one up recently). Poverty and lack of investment in facilities is one of the key reasons why the sport is still dominated by whites (even though they’re about 8% of the population), and Black players are few and far in between (they constitute about 80% of the population). A guy like Ntini is truly the exception and not the norm (it appears that Ngam’s international career was cut short due to poor quality nutrition in his childhood, making him extremely susceptible to stress fractures – yet another way in which affluence influences player selection).

    It may be forgotten, but traditional media also played a role in sustaining niche sports. They covered them, and even if you’re really not into skeleton, cricket or chess, you would notice the items, if you bought a newspaper. Who buys newspapers these days? Online newspapers are definitely NOT similar: you go to what you’re looking for – so if these sports are not on your radar, you simply don’t bother. That is an irreversible trend.

    Free to air coverage helps, but it can only get you that far. If no investment is made in facilities, grounds, or even making the equipment affordable, then you’re basically hoping that people can improvise – and seeing that the ECB setup is rather rigid with techniques and such, these players will be lost to the ECB, or never deemed good enough, be it for their unorthodox bowling or batting techniques. It is really no coincidence that the one batsman of the past decade that opposition players feared the most was born in South Africa. Orthodoxy can be helpful, but in the age of T20, improvisation and adaptability has become a key characteristic of a good cricketer.

    I am really not sure what Chance to Shine really achieves. Or who really pays for it. It could well be mostly a tax-paid exercise in futility (Sport England which is listed as a key partner is funded by the government and seems to be paying substantially more into the programme than the ECB), with the ECB claiming credit, for what is effectively double or even triple taxation to sustain cricket (1. tickets 2. Sky subscriptions 3. general taxes). General taxation is not something you can avoid. But if means are limited, tickets and Sky subscriptions will be avoided, since they take out a huge chunk of your income. Cricket, due to lack of FTA is becoming increasingly invisible to those with limited means. yet they too pay for the upkeep of a game they have no real chance of watching (in a formalized setting), enjoying or playing.

    And because top sport becomes ever more professional, bad starts in life, through no fault of your own, can mean you will never make it to the top. Ngam is a case in point. So honestly, what chances do (lower) working class lads have to actually make it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • AB December 23, 2015 / 10:06 am

      There are thousands of clubs out there with grounds, nets, qualified coaches, free equipment for everyone to use… but no junior players because without cricket on FTA tv, they have no interest in playing.

      This stuff about cricket being expensive or there being no facilities in nonsense. My club provides 20 coaching sessions and 10 games a year for juniors, with all equipment provided, team shirts, 2 qualified coaches, awards evenings, free personalised video analysis, ALL FOR FREE.

      We have 4 primary schools and 2 large secondary schools in the nearby area, yet we can barely get 20 kids interested in playing. The ECB and Sky are murdering cricket.

      Like

  3. Mark December 18, 2015 / 12:32 pm

    Cricket is in decline in this country. Probably terminal decline in my opinion. The issues are way bigger than anything the ECB can control. As I Have said before, the ECB is simply managing the decline of cricket.

    There are many issues as to why this is, cultural, environmental, economic, political. Cricket, and sport in general are just not a political priority these days. Both the left and right wings of the political class has shat on sport over the last 40 years. But for different reasons. On the left, the distrust of competition lead particularly to local authorities in inner cites to a policy that was indifferent to sport, and we have seen the rise of the so called non competitive sports days where every one gets a prize. The typical Daily Telegraph Tory likes to blame this for all the problems. But the political Right has also played a part in this decline. The elevation of money and markets as an arbitrary control in every aspect of life means that sport at grass roots is on death row. A playing field, whether state school owned or local authority park land is always going lose out when the choice is either non money making sport or building a supermarket or new property development. Huge areas of playing fields have been flogged off to developers over the last 35 years. Once it’s gone it’s gone for ever. We are a small over populated Island with a shortage of public land. We don’t have the land mass of Australia or India for example.

    Combine that with a political class who were privately educated, and could not give a shit about public education and you have a perfect storm. The introduction of the national curriculum to give politicians more control over state schools only increased sports increasing unimportance. ( notice it doesn’t apply to private schools) Now there are good people on both sides of politics who genuinely love sport and understand its importance, but they are a minority in both main parties. They do their best, but the are fighting an ideological battle on both sides they can’t win.

    But it isn’t just about money. Go and look at the number of poor kids in India who play cricket in huge numbers. They don’t have manicured grass playing fields or the best bats and balls and pads. Just as the great players of WI who played beach cricket didn’t have great luxury.

    However, in England we have the a combination of factors that all come together. Part reduction of money, added to a reduction of public space where kids can play, and a culture that encourages them to stay inside and safe. The stripping of sport from public schools. Add all these together and sport is not going to flourish. It’s interesting how many of the England cricket team over the last 30 odd years were not born in England. Would the likes of Alan Lamb, Robin Smith, KP and many others have succeeded if the had come up through the English system?

    England has turned increasingly into a sports nation of watchers not participants. Sean’s comment about the price of family tickets is a valid one. But look at football. Most Premiership season ticket holders are men aged between 35 and 55 all wearing the club shirt over their beer bellies. Not that many kids. Priced out. We have also become a more individual nation. (The rise of choice of so many diffent pastimes) cycling for example. Add in the longer work times people are expected to do, and organised team participation sport is going to decline. No wonder the people at the ECB are going to just cash in while they can.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Grenville December 18, 2015 / 1:39 pm

    Someone (at the dearly departed Full Toss, I think), pointed out that a free to air broadcaster needs to build an audience by making cricket an event. They need it to be a national experience, part of the summer of everyone. (think Wimbledon, the Olympics or channel 4’s roadshows and public involvement campaigns). That isn’t so true of a subscription model. What Sky looks for is buy in (rather than eyes on the box). You want the feel of an exclusive club. Us, but not them, are the supporters. We pay £££ to pursue our passion. It’s all marketing in the end, but there is an added bonus of partnering with a free to air broadcaster and that is that their marketing is aimed at your, presumable, goal of maximizing interest in the sport. Just a thought (that isn’t mine).

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  5. Rooto December 18, 2015 / 4:10 pm

    Sean. Agree with most of your suggestions for breathing life back into the sport.
    Disagree about FTA, though. Cricket needs to become part of the national conversation again, and for that FTA is still the best – even if it’s Dads that are putting it on. I certainly wasn’t the one who start tuning into Peter West as an 8-year-old. Take the TDF becoming more talked about since extensive coverage on itv4 (even when a Brit isn”t winning…)as an example.

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    • Sean B December 18, 2015 / 4:57 pm

      Thanks Rooto and for all that have commented. I do think FTA is part of the answer (hence my suggestion to force Sky to show a couple of international white ball games on their FTA channel for every series they cover), but also feel it’s a small part of what needs to be done to re-engage the national public again.

      Unfortunately, with the major cull of sports coverage amongst the FTA providers (certainly at the BBC), I can’t see a time when widespread FTA coverage could ever happen in the future now.

      Like

      • Danny December 19, 2015 / 11:22 am

        I think after the digital switchover that the definition of FTA TV needs broadening. If cricket did come back to Freeview, I think it would likely be on a broadcaster’s 3rd or 4th channel which would rule out the BBC hosting cricket entirely. I reckon channels like ITV4, More4, Spike (I think it’s run by Channel 5), and of course Pick. With the BBC only having 2 non-kids channels until 7pm, I can’t imagine they’d schedule 40 full days of cricket through the summer on either BBC 1 or 2.

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  6. AB December 23, 2015 / 9:54 am

    The point about sport on FTA tv is that it is the start of a multiplier effect. The event suddenly reappears in the public consciousness and starts getting talked about on twitter, on facebook, youtube clips and highlights are shown.

    So even if you think no kids ever sit down and watch sport on the tv (which in my experience is completely wrong anyway), the fact that cricket is back on FTA tv would suddenly bring it back into the public domain and references to it and comments about it would suddenly start appearing on their ipads and various feeds.

    Australia was suffering from rapidly declining spectator and player numbers until they decided to put the big bash league on FTA tv, and suddenly things have reversed and the sport is growing again. It WAS the silver bullet over there, and they have I-pads and twitter and youtube just like we do, so why would it not be over here?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. AB December 23, 2015 / 10:01 am

    A franchise system is a terrible idea. Lets get more people watching by removing cricket from them. It would be the final mail in the coffin.

    Australia had the right idea: EXPAND the T20. Why do people in this country so desperately want to contract cricket, to take it away from the fans? Are you trying to kill the game?

    Saturday is also a bad day to show cricket – most of the potential audience are playing! T20s need to be on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons, and we need more teams in more regions playing more games – 24 teams would be ideal.

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    • d'Arthez December 23, 2015 / 11:36 am

      Sky is not working for the domestic cricket. Apparently viewership was less than 0.5% of the entire population for the final.

      One problem is the 18 counties. To have a single round robin, would take us 153 games (!). By comparison, a double round robin with 8 teams is only 56 games. So to have all the county sides play a round robin format would be overkill. So a different format has to be found.

      The 24 you’re proposing probably means groups of 6 (a single round robin would be 276 games), with two teams qualifying for the quarters? If you go the double round robin route that is still 127 games in a season (assuming regular quarterfinals, semis and 1 final). That is longer than a World Cup and IPL combined!

      The use of groups has its drawbacks too, since sides that start poorly, will focus on the FC / List-A season, and thus distort the competition as well. We have seen it happen time and again in the Blast, so no reason to assume that it would be otherwise. Unless the first stage is to determine which 16 sides go to the knockouts; but that itself would be a farce.

      Now, even if you’d concentrate the entire tournament in 3-4 week slots, where do you get the 500+ quality players from? Steven Smith might sell tickets. But try explaining to a non-cricket aficionado who Karl Brown is, and you will have a struggle on your hands.

      Like

      • AB December 23, 2015 / 12:30 pm

        We shouldn’t be comparing it to the world cup. Its a domestic tournament designed to bring as much live cricket to as much of the population as possible. Compare it to the MLB season or the premier league. Play it every weekend from the start of May (to catch the students before they go home for the holidays) to the end of August.

        No-one in the street knows who steven smith is. His presence or otherwise is irrelevant

        Like

      • d'Arthez December 23, 2015 / 12:52 pm

        Well, if no one knows who Steven Smith is after an Ashes and bagging ICC Cricketer & ICC Test cricketer of the year, you may as well stop bothering with cricket.

        We should be comparing it to the World Cup and IPL, since everybody complains that those tournaments go on in perpetuity. So let’s have a tournament that concludes when Joe Root dies of old age, even though the tournament started while he was in his twenties. Brilliant!

        Like

      • AB December 23, 2015 / 2:13 pm

        “just don’t bother”? That’s no attitude to have.

        The fundamental point of T20 cricket is to provide exciting live cricket games that are as accessible as possible for the potential audience. That means regularly shown live on fta tv, and played in as many different areas of the country as possible. There are huge swathes of the country with no professional cricket teams, and that badly needs addressing. Its actually very difficult to find a game to take kids to watch and that’s pathetic.

        I would do 2 groups of 12, playing 22 games in May-June-July, split 50:50 between Friday nights and Sunday afternoons, followed by best-of-3 quarters (Fri-Sat-Sun) and semis and a best of 5 final (Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun, 2 on Monday if required) on August bank holiday. The spectator numbers, both live and on tv, would go through the roof, probably a 400% and 4000% increase respectively; the players would suddenly become household names again; and both junior and adult playing numbers would start growing again.

        This is the only way to save cricket. Any further retraction of the season will just inevitably lead to a further retraction in interest and player numbers.

        Like

      • d'Arthez December 23, 2015 / 3:06 pm

        IF no one knows who Steven Smith is, then why would anyone know who any of the 400+ domestic players are you want in your T20 competition. So, is cricket meant to be enjoyed as a sporting contest, or as a beer drinking occasion? Since no one knows the athletes / sports people, presumably it is the latter.

        The point of a competition is not just to get people involved on an ad hoc basis, but also to have a sense of competition. A 6-month competition won’t cut it. We saw that in a famous Kasparov – Karpov slogathon, in 1984 – a World Championship match which had to be annulled because the players got too exhausted. And the people on the ground were not really enjoying the contest either.

        Good luck getting many decent international players either, be it from England or elsewhere. You may get some has beens, but if you’re going to criticise IPL for that, please enlighten me how the Devon Smiths, Rory Kleinveldts, and Dwayne Smiths are really going to add value to the Blast.

        24 teams playing 1 game a week each, means roughly two games a day. And yet the First Class and List-A competition are going on in the same period, so it will be an absolute scheduling nightmare. Because you can’t have FC games starting on say Saturday, and then have all the fixtures of the T20 tournament played on Thursday or Friday. There are simply not 4 – 6 FTA channels available to cater for that. Consequently doing it in such a way will ensure that you’re lucky to see your team twice a year on TV in a T20 competition. Compare that to IPL, BBL, or even BPL. All games are televised and the overlap is minimal. So you can actually follow your team(s), rather than having to rely on an updated Ceefax to relay the scores to you.

        Player identification will remain limited, because you have 500+ players playing. What are the chances that you’ll be able to watch the Karl Browns two weeks in a row? Limited, because either Karl Brown will be playing at home one week in Lancashire, but he’ll be playing in Kent the next week. On TV? Unlikely, because if you have 24 teams, playing just 1 game a week, that means there will be 36 hours of just T20 cricket on TV. That is discounting the previews, the chats afterwards, the coin toss etc. There is no snowball’s chance in hell that all those games will be televised, simply because it is too much.

        Like

      • AB December 23, 2015 / 3:28 pm

        The entire point of professional spectator sport is to attract and entertain spectators, either live or on tv. The current professional system does an appalling job of this, it almost seems like it is run to provide entertainment for the players, rather than the fans. An ideal system would be one which maximised the total number of tv and live spectators by putting on an expanded competition.

        You don’t have to know who the players are to be able to enjoy the game. Of my U13 team, none of them could name a single current professional cricketer. They still love cricket and thoroughly enjoyed the T20 I took them all too last year.

        The reason, of course, that no-one knows who any of the players are is because they’re not on tv. There’s an easy way to remedy that of course: show the games: currently unknown players will soon become famous.

        The current competition (lasting approximately the same length) gets all the famous international players. I recently posted a post comparing the overseas players in the NWB 2015 to the BBL2014/15. Everyone was amazed by how many MORE famous names and international superstars were in the NWB2015 league. So your point about not being able to attract star players is clearly misinformed nonsense.

        “24 teams playing 1 game a week each, means roughly two games a day.”

        This makes no sense. The games would be played on Friday and Sundays. 6 games on the Friday evening, 6 games on the Sunday afternoon. Perfect for spectators both live and watching at home.

        The big national FTA channels could pick the best games, and the rest can be distributed around the regional channels or broadcast for free over the internet by the ECB.

        4 day cricket can be played Monday to Thursday. The one day crap that no-one either watches nor cares about can be played from August onwards.

        See, it all works perfectly.

        24 teams is 264 players, not 500, less than the premier league. Your maths is way out.

        Like

      • d'Arthez December 23, 2015 / 4:07 pm

        Well, if you count Dwayne Smith, Rory Kleinveldt and Devon Smith as famous, sure the Blast will get more. Though it already beats your own argument, since obviously Steven Smith is not famous enough for anyone to know. So who the hell is? You’re only measuring how many teams are involved effectively. It is not hard to have more players in 18 teams than it is in 8 teams. The Blast is unique in one respect: it is just about the only domestic T20 tournament in which the local international players are hardly involved. And another complaint is that the international players usually get to play 3-4 games, before they are required to represent their country at some other venue in the world. So some counties have to sign 3 players for a season just to have 1 foreigner available at all times. Which reeks more of amateurism than professionalism.

        You cannot get away with showing bog-average players week in week out (the FA Cup is different, precisely because it is not week in week out that you’ll see say Man City take on Whitehawk). Mayweather vs Pacquiao sold because they were billed as the best. Two overweight fast food franchise managers slugging it out won’t generate any interest whatsoever. Simply because expectations will be non-existent.

        I’d like to meet the marketing guru who can make Karl Brown look better than AB de Villiers, MS Dhoni, or even a Quinton de Kock, or just about any non-has been international player. Hell, I’d love to meet the marketing guru who can generate name awareness of 0.4% for Karl Brown in the UK. That is merely 100% of the people who bothered with watching the final on Sky last year.

        The point of having 2 games a day makes perfect sense. Do you really think you can get 4-6 FTA channels interested in the Blast? 12 games is at least 36 hours of play. Now, even if you divide that among two days, that is a measly 18 hours to sit through. But of course you can’t watch it all, so you’ll be forced to pray to the gods that the match you’re interested in will be broadcast. Yeah, that is going to work: a key reason for the success for IPL, BBL is that ALL games are easily accessible. So in effect you’re forcing those who love the game to merely miss 80% of the competition. Yeah, that will work wonders for the sense of competition. With people basically having no clue whatsoever what is going on in a competition they’re following.

        You get to see highlights at best, simply because it is physically undoable for anyone to watch all the games. Highlights don’t really work with cricket. Just as they don’t work with chess – though chess at least has several advantages over cricket in that respect, since the analysis can be integrated into a highlights broadcast. Good luck with that in cricket.

        As much fun as it is to see people getting drunk on a Friday night, you don’t want “going to the cricket” becoming synonymous with “I am getting plastered with my mates and I don’t care what happens around me”. Which is something you are complaining about, but I see nothing in your proposals to address that issue. The corollary is that those who are at home, might find other things to do as well. After all it is prime time and the weekend, and the build-up in the tourney you propose is stop-start. There is no continuity, unlike the BBL or IPL, where there is usually at least 1 game / day at least.

        The ECB can’t even generate enough interest to get one FTA channel remotely interested. And regional channels don’t work as well as you imagine. How would I even get to access a game involving say Somerset if I live in the wrong region? I get screwed. How would I watch a regional game involving Jos Buttler, if I don’t happen to live in Lancashire? I get screwed. Yeah, that is going to work. So your exposure to the Karl Browns will remain limited at best, if you don’t happen to live in the “right region”. But that also applies to the bigger domestic names, such as Billings, and whoever is busy making a name for themselves.

        Like

      • AB December 23, 2015 / 4:12 pm

        “it is just about the only domestic T20 tournament in which the local international players are hardly involved”

        eh? 90% of the England T20 team were regular fixtures for their county sides.

        I’m not sure you know enough about this to be commenting to be honest. Add to that that you don’t seem to have read my previous comments that have already addressed your rather bizarre concerns.

        Like

      • AB December 23, 2015 / 5:28 pm

        Avoiding drunken yobs at the T20 is easy: simply go to any of the 17 grounds not named “The Oval”.

        Like

      • d'Arthez December 23, 2015 / 6:26 pm

        If you mean by regular, 4 appearances for Buttler, sure.
        If you mean by regular, 1 appearance for Root, sure.
        If you mean by regular, 1 appearance for Broad, sure.
        If you mean by regular, 6 appearances for Finn, sure.
        Moeen got 7 games.

        But you can say those played in the international fixtures. So, in effect the ECB can’t be bothered to streamline the fixtures in such a way that the most recognisable players actually get to play a substantial number of games in the competition. That will make a great sell. Judging by the viewership figures, the people are not buying it. Nor should they.

        Rashid 7 games.
        Woakes 3 games.
        Wiley 10 games.
        Morgan did well, getting 10 appearances. Hales got 10 games as well.
        Roy and Vince actually played all of the games. Vince made his international debut last month, so he should not even count. So that is maybe 2 England players who actually played the entire T20 season. And those are the specialists, who don’t get to play ODIs or Tests.

        Since there is a huge overlap of players who play 3 formats (Buttler, Root, Finn, possibly Broad, though he does not get picked), Hales potentially, and a few who play two formats (Morgan, Roy, Rashid, possibly Woakes), that is the best one can reasonably expect of the Blast as it is currently constituted. Expanding the number of fixtures will only make it worse.

        None of the second bunch of players was involved in the Test series. Now you can argue that injuries played their part, but injuries are merely excuses. All the facts point to a systemic problem.

        Now, pray tell me how many games the Indian national players miss while participating in the IPL? None. Same with BPL, Ram Slam T20, or the CPL. The BBL is a partial exception, but even then CA ensures that the focus is on the BBL, by getting the lacklustre West Indies to tour. I am on record saying that the first Test was not a sport, but a glorified box-ticking exercise. The WICB remains as clueless as ever.

        Given the lack of quality of the opposition, none of the Australians would even have to miss a game in the BBL. So dire are the West Indies these days. They got beaten in the first warm up by 10 wickets, against an inexperienced bunch of players. No fewer than 6 of them made their FC debut in that particular game. Steven Smith, Shaun Marsh and a few others may miss a few games, but that is partly dependent on whether the West Indies can be bothered to take another Test to day 3. I am not too confident that they will be able to. The standards in WI Test cricket are that dire. They merely lose 75% of the Tests on the road since 2000, against major opposition. Most of the few times they don’t lose they have been lucky with the weather.

        In terms of international players:
        It seems that about 50% of the foreigners in the Blast were Australians. Yeah, as if England supporters have not seen enough of those in the last 3 years during the approximate 7259 Ashes that were held then.

        Surrey had Elgar for 1 game, Wahab Riaz for 2 games. Moises Henriques for 3 games. And Sangakkara for 9 games, though his international retirements have helped there massively. It is fair to assume that none of these players was twiddling their thumbs for 5 months waiting for another game.

        Somerset: Chris Gayle got all of 3 games. Presumably a batting average of 300+ was not a reason he did not get any more games. Abdur Rehman got 6. Sohail Tanvir got 6. Luke Ronchi got 5. Cooper got 12 (on his Dutch passport, so he does not count as a foreigner). So sure, Somerset had 5 foreigners. One does not even count due to ECB rules (just like Morgan, Stirling, Wilson, the O’Briens and Joyces don’t count as such), and the other four got all of 6 games between them. Yeah, that is really “season long availability”. Other than the Irish, which nation’s cricket supporters would be more than mildly interested in following the Blast?

        I checked the results. Of the 133 games scheduled in the Blast, 32 were close. That is about 25%. I did not count the abandonments. In the IPL, it was 16 close games out of 60 scheduled (did not count the abandonments in those games either). That is about 25%. So in terms of exciting finishes really not that much difference between IPL and Blast

        Like

  8. AB December 23, 2015 / 10:21 am

    Personally I’d say that the NWB is a similar standard to the BBL, and streets ahead of the woeful IPL. We have higher average scores, a higher % of close games, less washed up ex-internationals, but all the same genuinely big names. What’s not to like? The domestic stars are only “unknowns” because 90% of the games aren’t televised.

    However, if you will go to the Oval, which is by far and away the worst ground in the country to watch county cricket, what do you expect? I’ve been to watch 5-6 games there, and it always feels like I am the only person in the ground that has noticed there is cricket going on

    Like

    • d'Arthez December 23, 2015 / 7:43 pm

      16549 runs have been scored in the IPL. From 1987.1 overs. That is a NRR of 8.33, or an average score of about 167 from 20 overs. That is across innings, so this is of course an underestimate, due to first innings collapses and such.

      18165 runs have been scored in group A of the Blast. From 2217.5 overs. That is a NRR of 8.19. Clearly the Blast is superior, since they average an innings total from 20 overs of 164, which is substantially more than 167, right?

      Like

      • d'Arthez December 23, 2015 / 7:47 pm

        So, compared to the IPL, the percentage of close games is similar, the scores are similar (albeit slightly lower in the Blast, I am not going to make pronouncements on whether that is statistically significant), and the number of has-beens / Australians in the Blast is significantly higher. Or are we suddenly going to believe that Steve Magoffin, Rory Kleinveld and Abdur Rehman, and Richard Levi are the future for their respective national teams?

        That is still discounting all the Kolpak players such as Prince, Petersen, Thomas, etc.

        So, any other claims you want me to debunk for you? Like attendances are higher in Blast than they are in the BBL or IPL? That TV audiences for the IPL are smaller than they are for the Blast?

        Like

      • d'Arthez December 24, 2015 / 12:10 am

        Oh, and the BBL 2014/15? 8 close games in 35 fixtures. Difficult question for AB: is 8 out of 35 games more or less than 25%?

        Run scored? 9165 from 1186.5 overs. NRR? 7.72. Average total? 154. Which is markedly higher than in the IPL or the Blast. At least according to AB math.

        Like

      • d'Arthez December 24, 2015 / 12:46 pm

        “Personally I’d say that the NWB is a similar standard to the BBL, and streets ahead of the woeful IPL. We have higher average scores, a higher % of close games, less washed up ex-internationals, but all the same genuinely big names. What’s not to like? The domestic stars are only “unknowns” because 90% of the games aren’t televised.”

        Do I need to teach you how to read?

        Like

      • AB December 24, 2015 / 1:46 pm

        errr, I said the NWB had higher scores and higher % of closer games than the BBL. Which it has, as everyone knows. There was even an espncricinfo article about it earlier in the year.

        So thanks, you’ve inadvertently proved my point.

        Fucking idiot, you defeated your own argument without even realising it.

        What a fucking moron. Its time you stopped embarrassing yourself now.

        Like

    • AB December 23, 2015 / 11:08 pm

      Now compare it to the BBL, as I was.

      Moron.

      Like

      • d'Arthez December 23, 2015 / 11:41 pm

        When you can’t make a coherent argument, and all your facts are refuted by reality, you start calling names.

        Now care to debate, or is that beyond your mental faculties?

        Like

      • d'Arthez December 23, 2015 / 11:46 pm

        Mike Selvey, i that you?

        Like

      • LordCanisLupus December 24, 2015 / 9:15 am

        Keep it civil. Prefer not to see name calling. I’m not able to monitor 24/7 at the mo so trust you to all behave! !!!

        Like

      • AB December 24, 2015 / 10:52 am

        You’re worse than the ECB. A complete and total moron with absolutely zero knowledge of what you’re talking about.. You haven’t debunked anything, because you haven’t addressed any of the topics. You’ve just knocked over a load of pathetic strawmen.

        You sit there and spout hatred and bile about English cricket and denigrate some of the world’s top 40 T20 cricketers as “also rans” and “has beens”. You appear to have absolutely no clue who plays for the England T20 team.

        I don’t think you even like cricket. You certainly don’t know anything about it.

        You’re not just part of the problem. Ignorant antagonistic trolls like you like you ARE the problem.

        Like

      • d'Arthez December 24, 2015 / 11:39 am

        Yeah, I don’t know who plays for the T20 team. That is why I listed the majority of players who actually play for the team, and listed their appearance numbers. I also included Broad, who was the previous captain, and would be an excellent pick provided the ECB bothered to manage his schedule and injuries better.

        You say higher scores in the BBL compared to other leagues. Stats don’t bear that out.

        You say there are more close finishes in the BBL compared to the other leagues. Stats don’t bear that out.

        All the leagues are pretty similar in terms of runs scored / game, close finishes, etc. Sure some grounds will be bigger than others, and depress scores, but for the leagues as a whole, the effect seems rather negligible. It is not like all the grounds in England or India are the size of a post stamp. Far from it.

        You write stuff, and when I respond with actual facts, you call your own arguments strawmen, and then start hurling abuse at me, for taking to put the actual numbers to the test. Your numbers are myths.

        You prefer living in lala-land, and making up facts to fit with your (racist) prejudices. And then getting angry when reality does not live up to your fantasies. Like a typical person who thinks he is superior, you start lashing out at those who offend you for having the audacity to point out what is actually happening.

        Like

      • AB December 24, 2015 / 12:20 pm

        You don’t know who plays for the T20 team. You’ve listed a load of people who don’t play, and have conveniently ignored most of the players that do. This is just embarrassing for you. Why don’t you look at a scorecard from the recent Pakistan vs England series?

        “You say higher scores in the BBL compared to other leagues. Stats don’t bear that out.”

        No I didn’t

        “You say there are more close finishes in the BBL compared to the other leagues. Stats don’t bear that out.”

        No I didn’t.

        You see what I mean about strawmen? You’re just arguing against yourself here. Its stupidity of the highest order. Can you even read?

        As for describing top quality cricketers like Devon Smith and Rory Kleinfelt as nobodies, that is ignorance of the highest order. Is it just that they are players of colour? Is that what you don’t like? Only white cricketers deserve recognition in your book? These are some of the best T20 cricketers in the world that would grace any competition, and you can barely bring yourself to spit out their names.

        Your flagrant trolling is not just ignorant, it is actually highly offensive and deeply disgusting and have no place on a civil website such as this.

        Like

      • d'Arthez December 24, 2015 / 12:47 pm

        “Personally I’d say that the NWB is a similar standard to the BBL, and streets ahead of the woeful IPL. We have higher average scores, a higher % of close games, less washed up ex-internationals, but all the same genuinely big names. What’s not to like? The domestic stars are only “unknowns” because 90% of the games aren’t televised.”

        Now, do I need to teach you how to read?

        Like

      • AB December 24, 2015 / 4:17 pm

        So ban the troll and IP block him while you’re at it. Problem Solved. I’ve never been subject to disgusting abuse and idiotic strawman arguments like this from any other members of the cricket community.

        Like

        • LordCanisLupus December 24, 2015 / 6:03 pm

          I rarely moderate, and that’s a blog policy we try to adhere to.

          Speaking frankly, if I may, I think posting your first comment on BOC yesterday and then telling me to ban someone who has been with HDWLIA and this blog for a year and a half the day after is a bit, how shall we say, cheeky.

          Debate can be passionate, and can cross the line. I’m not keen on the name calling, no matter how frustrated you get, and no doubt D’Arthez has. But you stand a fall on your own contributions, and your own debating points.

          I’ll leave it there. You decide what you want to do.

          Like

    • AB December 24, 2015 / 1:43 pm

      No, you need to teach yourself how to read, you complete moron.

      The BBL and the Blast are not the same thing. Do you know literally nothing about cricket whatsoever? Why are you even trying to join in this conversation?

      Are you really this fucking dumb in real life? How do you get dressed in the morning?

      Boy, talk about pathetic attempt at trolling. You’ve made a complete laughing stock of yourself.

      Like

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