Third, Don’t Hack Off Your Customer Base

First of all I’d like to apologise for the length of time since I last posted anything, as in the main this has been due to the sheer volume of work that I have had on for the last couple of months; however this is not the only reason. I must admit that I’ve fallen out of love with the game and rather than trying to cobble something half-hearted together, which would not represent the sheer brilliance of the pieces from the other writers, I decided also to take a break from writing. I also admit that I was very tempted to walk away all together. Being a writer on a blog does seem to take over your life at times, and due to the nature of the things that we write, it also makes oneself a bit of a marked man on social media. I’ve gotten fed up of being called ‘an Alastair Cook hater’, a ‘one-eyed writer’, ‘KP fanboy’ etc. as it does get tiresome after a short while, though thankfully the ‘mute’ button on Twitter has proved to be quite an effective tool. There was also a part of me that felt, and has done for a little while, that we are ‘simply pissing in the wind’ against an organization who has no regard for the game, its’ players and certainly not its’ fan, so what is the point in trying to hold them to account?

We then of course come to the England team, a ‘mediocre’ (right word Colin, just aimed at the wrong people) bunch of egotistical prima donnas who seem to stop performing as soon as they leave the comfort of the favorable (doctored) pitches that they are regularly served up in England. I must admit also that for the first time in my life, I actually didn’t want England to take the wickets they needed to win the 2nd Test in New Zealand, I didn’t want the uncomfortable truth that England’s record away from home over the past 2 years is: Played: 12, Won: 0, Lost: 9, Drawn: 3. I also didn’t want the normal England cricket hagiographers trying to spin a positive picture, when our batting is beyond brittle, our bowling is decidedly average and that we are normally reliant on one of three players to help carry the rest of the team (clue – it’s not Alastair Cook). More worryingly though is that I’ve stopped identifying with and even stopped caring about this team. We might have been a bit rubbish in the 90’s but there were some world class teams in play then and at least they seemed to try their hardest! You look at this team now when things are going wrong and it seems that most of them don’t really care that much as they have a photo shoot in the morning or a pub to promote. Now I might by 1000% wrong on this, but this is just how I feel about our Test team at the moment. Please don’t think that this is going to be a ‘oh woe me’ piece, but I did feel that I needed to provide an explanation for my absence from writing for so long.

Although I’m hardly enamoured by the England team, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t been enjoying watching other cricket, as this game can still give me the same buzz as it always has. I’ve been to 3 days at different county games this year (including heading to the H’Oval with Dmitri last Friday). There are of course, some people on the blog that love county cricket and many more who don’t and whilst there will always be conversations around the ‘quality of the product’, the enthusiasm and determination of the players cannot be faulted. The same can also be said of the few thousand fans that turn up to the games. These guys are the lifeblood of the sport, they are the ones who are passionate about their team and their sport and there isn’t a prima donna in sight! I was sitting in the stands with a paper, a couple of beers and some sun which made me fully appreciate what we have got with regards to live cricket. There were a couple thousand there like me too.

Yet these are the very group that the ECB have deemed not suitable for the game, not their type of fan so to speak. They have already marginalized county cricket to the very outskirts of the season, so that the games are either played too early or too late in the season, when the weather isn’t conducive to producing ‘good and fair pitches’. They have also shuffled the majority of these games to a Monday or Tuesday start, which means that the majority who work are now unable to see them (I believe the last round of county games are the last ones that will be started on a Thursday for the rest of the season, with the odd game starting on the Wednesday for those that work). All for what? So we can shunt in a format of the game (and I broadly use the word ‘game’) that has been designed on the back of a fag packet and a format that anyone who actually loves the game of cricket reviles? As we keep being told, this format is not for fans of cricket, it’s for mothers and children, who obviously struggle with a game that contains 120 balls each, but are going to flock to a game that has 100 balls and some whacky gimmicks (on the subject, we may as well replace Root and Stokes as the marketing pin ups with Peppa Pig and One Direction).

This week the lunatics who the run the asylum have gone even further by actively contradicting themselves whether this format is set in stone, with Harrison saying to the counties it wasn’t and Graves telling the media that it was. Of course the players and the fans were the last to know. We even had the quite comical quote from Graves below:

If anyone thinks that it is a laughing stock then I totally disagree,” Graves told Telegraph Sport. “This has gone through our Twenty20 board, the ECB board, we talked to the hierarchy of the PCA. We could not go further with the players at that time but now we have launched the concept we will talk to everybody.

“It is exciting and I think it is fantastic opportunity to launch a new form of cricket. It is not at the expense of the others. We all want county cricket, Test cricket and T20 but it is something to attract a new audience and expand the reach of what we do.

“We chose eight venues that we thought were right for the new competition. We offered them (Surrey) the opportunity to be one of those venues. If they don’t want to be that venue then all they have to do is tell us. I have got three venues who are desperate to have it. We are not forcing anybody to have it. If they don’t want it, fine. But if they do want it, they have to be 100 percent committed. People who make those sort of comments need to make sure they are totally on board. If they are not on board then fine we will go somewhere else. 

All good bluster, but unfortunately he got the main part of the quote wrong, it is a laughing stock and I’m sure that cricket boards all over the world are chuckling into their beer, watching the ECB continually shoot itself in the foot and taking some of the heat off themselves (hello Australia!).

At the heart of his comments, was this ‘magical new audience’ that the ECB suits have been told to repeat on nearly a daily basis. Naturally we haven’t been told how they plan to attract this new audience, who it is and the research behind this that means that people who have no interest in cricket are suddenly going to be won round by a 100 ball tournament with a 10 ball final over and some glitzy marketing fare. Come on Colin spill the beans, show us the proof that there is an appetite from non-cricket fans because the rest of us feel jolly pissed off that you are actively ruining the game we love! All this from a so-called ‘business man’.

Yet whilst the ECB continues to stumble around like a drunk vagrant, they have forgotten the golden rule of business (for we are no longer fans, just commodities and the ECB is a business not a board anymore), which is to consolidate and protect your current market before going head over heals for a new market set. The number of businesses that I’ve seen fail because they stopped delivering for their current customers whilst on the hunt to engage new customers is alarmingly high, yet this is exactly what the ECB are doing. When this farce of a format fails and believe me it will fail spectacularly, there is a very strong chance that fans like you and I will have lost any last vestiges of interest for the game. The people who currently attend county games, watch the live feeds and follow the international game on sky or TMS will have long gone, appalled at the fact that our governing body has not only ruined the game but have actively told them that our support is not good enough. We are certainly ‘not the right type of fans’. Sure the entitled idiots will still turn up at Lords each year to network and quaff over-priced champagne, but aside from that it is more likely you’ll see tumbleweed rather than people, if we even have a county or Test team by then. The ECB will be left with a lucrative TV deal and no more, because no matter the sport, it’s needs its’ share of passionate fans to survive, the very essence of the people that the ECB are trying to alienate.

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