The ECB: What is it Good For (Say it again)?

The Board and management team have considered the short and long-term goals of the business in order to support and grow the grassroots game while continuing to strive for success at the elite level with our 24 England teams.

Mission statements can be little more than a sop to marketing necessity, and often bear little relation to what is actually happening in a given sport. Put simply, the role of any organisation that is accredited as the supreme authority for a sport is to act as the guardian of the game, both in the present and the future, in order to ensure it is in good shape for future generations. To that end, the short paragraph above encapsulates rather well what a governing body should strive to achieve, particularly in a commercial world where obtaining financial support for the elite level is an exceptionally important part of what they must do.

The trouble is, this one belongs to the FA.

The ECB does have an equivalent, called Cricket Unleashed, that has five “central pillars” to their intentions. Somewhat ironically, the link defines itself as being in the Men’s section of the ECB’s website, which is both unfortunate and wryly amusing given that when someone tells them they’ll be aghast. The strategy makes interesting reading both in terms of the in depth objectives and the broader aims behind it, particularly when measured against what is actually going on:

More Play

The ECB will make the game more accessible and inspire the next generation of players, coaches, officials and volunteers, with a particular focus on families and the young.

Great Teams

The ECB will deliver winning men’s and women’s teams across the international and domestic spectrum that inspire and excite fans through on-field performance and their connection with the public on and off the field.

Inspired Fans

The fan will be at the heart of our game, our thinking and our events, to improve and personalise the cricket experience for all.

Good Governance & Social Responsibility

The ECB will make decisions in the best interests of the game and use the power of cricket to make a positive difference to communities around England and Wales. Protecting the integrity of our sport is critical and we will ensure we have the right governance and processes to achieve that.

Strong Finance & Operations

The ECB will increase the game’s revenues, invest our resources wisely and administer them responsibly to secure the growth of the game.

So far so good. For if a little PR orientated, it provides a benchmark against which the ECB can and should be measured in terms of their own performance and their aspirations. It can’t be denied that as a set of principles, it’s not too bad. There are clearly some clauses inserted to ensure that no one can possibly point out a gap, but that is the modern world, and no bad thing provided that is adhered to, even in part. The question is whether they do, or in some instances whether they even try.

More Play

The ECB will make the game more accessible and inspire the next generation of players, coaches, officials and volunteers, with a particular focus on families and the young.

It’s always been said that the trick of public relations is to get the big lie out of the way in the headline or title – the German Democratic Republic, the Department of Trade and Industry are two examples. Certainly “More Play” would be a positive, yet all the evidence points in the other direction. The ECB have stopped publishing detailed information on participation levels in England and Wales, presumably because they kept showing disastrous falls. One clever wheeze was to start combining the figures of both men and women, which given the rise of female cricket (and here, it must be acknowledged that the ECB have done well, and much as it might grate, perhaps the biggest advocate for it was the otherwise Odious Giles Clarke) has successfully masked to some extent the catastrophic collapse in male participation. Most figures go as far as 2016 so it is always possible that the last two years have seen the trend reversed, however unlikely. Snapshots may have different methodologies, so can’t be compared with the most comprehensive survey available over the last decade, which demonstrated a fall in the numbers of active participants of a quite horrifying 35%. The decline amongst youth players isn’t remotely as marked, but few sports are faced with such a collapse in interest and participation as cricket over that period.

Sport England’s Active People Survey shows a similar level of decline over the same period, albeit with different numbers, also demonstrating that some sports have performed well, and others badly. Cricket is unquestionably one of those that have performed badly, even more so given the rise in women playing to complicate the overall picture. Yet if the figure of just under 2 million women playing football once a week is accurate, then it amounts to approximately seven times as many women playing football as men playing cricket. That can be claimed to be a huge success for women’s sport (and is) but it also highlights rather acutely the problem cricket has, particularly when a fall from just under half a million cricketers to just over a quarter of a million is taken into account. Of course, that doesn’t mean for a second that growing the game shouldn’t be an aspiration, just the opposite, but the record of the ECB in the 21st century hasn’t been a good one, and the removal of cricket from free to air television does coincide with the fall in playing numbers. Correlation doesn’t equal causation, yet it is hard not to draw conclusions from the way the game has struggled for interest at the same time as it was removed from public sight. There is far too much corroboratory evidence to contradict the view that cricket, once one of the three major team sports in the country, is now a minority pursuit in every sense.

Within the body of the clause is a desire to make the game more accessible, and a particular focus on families and the young. This is part of the justification for the Hundred, and indeed reflects a lot of the statements made by various ECB officials in its support. The ECB’s own market research has indicated the cricket simply isn’t on the radar of children, with no recognition either of the game or the key players in the national team. The trouble here is that simply saying this is what it is all for, no matter how clumsily (“mums and kids”) doesn’t mean for a second that the aspiration becomes reality. The social media response to the endless variations on rules and playing conditions has been negative, which doesn’t mean that there is no merit behind any of them per se (nor that social media is representative of anything), but the whole intention behind Cricket Unleashed takes on a rather different hue when allied to the constant refrain that it isn’t aimed at existing cricket fans.

Accessibility can also be inferred to be a reference to cricket on free to air television, and if the omnishambles behind the Hundred to date has any saving grace whatever, it is the tacit admission by the ECB that hiding the game behind a paywall has been hugely damaging. It is vanishingly unlikely that anyone in authority will ever admit that, but the selling the Hundred rights for a relative song to the BBC (and that specific desire that it be the BBC) show that actions speak louder than words.

The trouble is that this particular aspiration collides headlong with many of the others, and that’s where the trouble begins. It is indicative of the mess the ECB have got into that the five pillars are tending towards the mutually exclusive. They needn’t have been.

Great Teams

The ECB will deliver winning men’s and women’s teams across the international and domestic spectrum that inspire and excite fans through on-field performance and their connection with the public on and off the field.

Of course. Wouldn’t anyone want that? Yet despite the statements from the ECB that Test cricket is their priority, this statement is suitably vague in terms of what it might actually mean. They could certainly argue that they are delivering on success in white ball cricket, both male and female, but it provides a nice free pass for the areas that aren’t going so well. It also places a lot of importance on the World Cup next year, and England’s hopes of winning it. A bad World Cup would seriously call into question the entire strategy on its own merits, let alone from the perspective of the Test game. Equally, the reference to domestic cricket being “inspiring and exciting” could be held to be indicating a white ball focus rather than red. The continued marginalisation of the County Championship certainly implies as much, and in the short term at least, the call up of players to the Test team who aren’t even playing red ball cricket for the counties is not a matter of protest so much as an obvious concomitant of the ECB’s own strategy.

The addition of a fourth limited overs domestic competition at the same time as reducing the importance of the County Championship (how else can its being shunted to April, May and September be viewed?) indicates plainly where the priorities lie. At the same time, they have financial imperatives that strongly point to what they are doing now, but ones that are on shaky ground in future given the fall in interest in cricket in the first place – if cricket loses interest, those TV rights become much less valuable. Hence the need for the Hundred, which may increase awareness of the game without directly impacting on the existing domestic and international finances.

Inspired Fans

The fan will be at the heart of our game, our thinking and our events, to improve and personalise the cricket experience for all.

This perhaps of all the five pillars of ECB wisdom will have the cricket supporter chuckling away most. The ever increasing ticket prices alone are hardly an indication of the fan being at the heart of anything other than the ECB’s wallet. To be fair to them, at least on this occasion they managed to include cricket fans in their list of stakeholders rather than ignoring them entirely, but nothing highlights the lack of trust in the organisation more than that even those not overtly critical of the ECB strategy will find this particular clause something of a joke.

It’s not even just the obvious issues that vex many a sporting fan (said ticket prices, food and drink costs, stadium access and so forth), it is also that the cricketing schedule is a mess to the point that fixtures are arranged with no thought whatever for the spectator. Bank Holidays empty of cricket, four day matches with no consistency on start date nor even falling over weekends, even entire swathes of the summer with no cricket in some formats at home grounds.

Naturally, paying lip service to supporters is a common complaint in all sports, but cricket has a particular problem in that the people who have supported the game over a long time are very often the same people who volunteer at clubs or schools to try to promote the sport itself. Treating traditional cricket spectators with contempt has a far greater impact on the game than is the case in previously comparable sports simply because there’s neither depth nor competition for attendance.

Of course, for T20 in particular, crowds have been strong, and some counties such as Surrey have invested heavily in a procedure known as “marketing”, to the point that they have demonstrated consistently high crowds, despite not having the assistance of the Hundred to do so. This might be thought to be worthy of credit, yet the silence from the ECB on this subject has been deafening. Of course, the whole tournament is restricted to Sky subscribers in the first place, and the unwillingness of either the ECB, the counties or both to countenance a drop in income is precisely why an additional tournament has been deemed necessary.

However, the nature of the crowds attending is rather open to debate. T20 cricket is neatly packaged into three hours (this has stretched somewhat – at the beginning it was two and a half, while the IPL has suffered from some games going as long as four hours), and attracts the casual spectator. This ought to be a good thing, for the shortest version of the game – so far – can and should be a gateway to developing an interest in cricket. However there are anecdotal complaints that people attend for a night out rather than game itself, which still isn’t a problem, for it provides much needed revenues from the bars. What is a contradiction is that the ECB have promoted the upcoming Hundred as being a family affair, while repeatedly stating it isn’t aimed at existing cricket fans.

They have a problem here: firstly in that no one has any idea where these prospective fans will be coming from, and secondly the often raucous atmosphere of a T20 is hardly conducive to being a family affair. It is impossible to believe that they will restrict the sale of alcohol for a start, meaning that without a currently entirely invisible to cricket demographic flocking to grounds, the chances are that it will simply replicate existing audiences, at best.

Good Governance & Social Responsibility

The ECB will make decisions in the best interests of the game and use the power of cricket to make a positive difference to communities around England and Wales. Protecting the integrity of our sport is critical and we will ensure we have the right governance and processes to achieve that.

The opening line of this clause is in some ways the most controversial statement of the lot, even more so than the one about fans. For it is beyond question that this should be the primary role of a governing body, the question is whether it actually is.

Is it truly in the best interests of the game to marginalise red ball cricket? Is it truly in the interests of the game to weaken the Test side (for there can be little argument that this is the effect)? Was it truly in the best interests of the game to oversee a sport that has become invisible and that participation has plummeted?

No one has ever said balancing the needs of a sport is easy, and certainly the ECB’s equivalents are subject to plenty of criticism. Yet even an organisation as institutionally controversial as FIFA could argue that they have significantly grown the sport around the world. The ECB can’t even arrest the decline of theirs in England and might well be directly responsible for it. Over the last 20 years or so there have been repeated opportunities to take decisions that were in the interests of the wider game, yet time and again the perception (at the very least) is that this has not been the motivation.

The creation of the Hundred is entirely at odds with the statement that “protecting the integrity of the sport is critical”, as more and more outlandish ideas are bandied around in order to provide a differentiation for what is already there. Whatever the length of a game, the fundamentals of the game of cricket remain. Considering abolishing the lbw law (as they were reported to have done) drives a coach and horses through the very idea that the integrity of the game is sacrosanct. It isn’t going to happen of course, but the very fact that it was even up for consideration is highly indicative that anything, including the game of cricket itself is very much up for grabs when commercial desires apply. Too many people have made the observation that the ECB is the only sporting body to hate its own sport for it to be given the benefit of any doubt. All of which leads to:

Strong Finance & Operations

The ECB will increase the game’s revenues, invest our resources wisely and administer them responsibly to secure the growth of the game.

This is one area the ECB can (and do. Oh my word, they really do) point to success. The move behind a paywall has seen the revenues rise consistently over the last 15 years, albeit some years are better than others. But there appears to be little scope for significant growth as things currently stand, without something such as the Hundred, and that relies on it being a success.

There is a central question here which the ECB have never been able to plausibly dismiss, which is whether the purpose of the money is to support the game, or whether the game is there to generate money. The former should be the sole focus of any governing body – the suspicion is that the latter is specifically what drives the ECB.

What is the money actually for? It is highly questionable whether the revenues have reached the recreational game for one thing – indeed many clubs might not notice much difference were the ECB to disappear entirely, such is the distance of the relationship between them. The clubs themselves have no say whatever over anything the ECB do. In contrast to the FA, where elections occur at every level of the pyramid, the ECB appoint someone to be a voice of the club and village game, with no reference whatever to it.

Likewise, although there are initiatives such as Chance to Shine and All Stars Cricket, much of the funding comes from elsewhere, and most of the work is done by club volunteers. Indeed, in the latter case the degree of subsidy is rather open to question, in terms of whether there is much if any at all. It should always be noted that the various England youth sides are included in the grassroots funding of the game. They are worthy recipients of money, naturally, but grassroots? No.

How well they operate as initiatives is a more open question. Chance to Shine appears to have performed well, in at least trying to stem the losses in interest and participation (sometimes success is measured in managing decline), but All Stars Cricket has had a mixed reception, and it is impossible to know whether the claimed figures represent a genuine uplift in junior interest, or whether it is largely those likely to be involved anyway measured twice.

The county game of course relies in large part on the TV deals done and the subsidy derived from the ECB themselves. Counties haven’t been self-sufficient for much of their histories, but the justification has always been that they are the proving ground and development centres for the international teams. As the ECB imperils the Test team by their strategy, that justification becomes just a little weaker.

Equally, those desiring terrestrial TV coverage, whether of county or international cricket are constantly met with the response that the drop in funding would damage the county game. At this point, the difficult question needs to be put: So what?

All businesses cut their cloth according to their income, the idea that counties would not be able to cope with a drop in subsidy implies that they are unable to run their basic affairs. Football teams cope with relegation, because they address the cost base to reflect the income differential. To suggest that county cricket is the sole industry totally unable to handle this is to say that it is akin to a heroin addict unable to function without their latest fix. It certainly would be difficult, it certainly would involve job losses, and it certainly wouldn’t please players who saw their income level drop. But it could and would survive, unless those who are running cricket are entirely incompetent.

This is why the central question of what that desire for ever increasing revenue remains to ask what it is for. It doesn’t remotely appear to be for the betterment of the game of cricket, it appears to be for the betterment of a subsection of the game of cricket. The amateur game barely notices whether there are rises or falls, only the professional game would, and it is a valid question as to whether that is a price worth paying for a sport now in deep trouble.

Whether a reduction in income in return for vastly greater television exposure would be worthwhile depends entirely on where an observer is standing. Within the upper echelons of the game, it would be viewed as a disaster. Elsewhere, perhaps not so much. Yet this strikes at the very essence of the reason for the ECB’s existence. If it is not for the benefit of the game of cricket itself, but for the benefit of those employed within it, then the ECB haven’t just failed to abide by the terms of their own mission statements, they have demonstrated thoroughly that they don’t deserve to run the game.

And here lies the ultimate irony: Having presided over the transition of the game from one that managed to become a national icon in 2005 to one that barely registers in public consciousness, cricket has become so lacking in importance that the conduct of its governing authority passes without much notice, and without much interest. Giles Clarke once said (smugly) that no one cares about administration. He was correct, but not entirely for the reasons he was suggesting. No one cares about administration when the sport being administered has become irrelevent. And that’s why it’s not the failing of the ECB’s Five Pillars that is the problem, it’s that they’ve made such a monumental mess of it this century that few people any longer care enough to challenge them on it.

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48 thoughts on “The ECB: What is it Good For (Say it again)?

  1. Zephirine Aug 25, 2018 / 7:33 pm

    Excellent article.

    Two things occur to me – one, rather mean-spiritedly, is that if the game is now so unimportant and has so little participation, the salaries for the national team players, coaches and some of the administrators can’t be justified. Clearly cricket can’t be compared even with rugby and certainly not with football any more, it’s on a level with what? Rowing? Tennis? Squash?

    My other thought is this: why is women’s cricket growing? I know the ECB gave the national team money and then salaries. Was that all? What else explains it? Can it be replicated for the men’s game?
    I suspect it was growing anyway and G Clarke jumped on the bandwagon, but I could be wrong.
    I think it was greatly helped by the time when a number of the women players got a part-time salary for outreach work. The likes of Sarah Taylor went round to lots of primary schools over a period of years and showed them what cricket was, obviously the little girls would take notice.
    Or is it just quite simply that more women are playing sports?The statistic that 7 times more women play football than men play cricket is startling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thelegglance Aug 25, 2018 / 7:35 pm

      The links to the stats give an indication of where cricket is at, using the same modelling. It’s a long way down the pecking order now.

      Like

    • quebecer Aug 26, 2018 / 9:30 pm

      Zeph, if I may, I am of an age where I remember when there was virtually no women’s cricket. For example, Was a a very good sporting university where our men’s team reached what was then UAU final – yet we had no women’s team at all. What we did have was a bunch of excellent female sportspeople who wanted to play, so they set up their own team and asked a few of us to coach. That was it.

      The point is, I think when you start with almost nothing and throw a little money at it, then there has to be clear improvement. It’s not so much an indicator of how well the ECB has done with the women’s game, but rather more that it barely existed at all before.

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      • Zephirine Aug 27, 2018 / 12:24 am

        Yes q, I expect that’s right, any improvement is more noticeable (and more publicised) because it’s starting from such a tiny base.

        But it is interesting that girls’ participation, especially at primary school age, seems to be trending up even if in small numbers, while boys’ is trending down. For some reason girls’ cricket is a thing, and I still reckon the ECB latched onto that rather than starting it off.

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        • quebecer Aug 27, 2018 / 12:49 am

          Reading between the lines of your post, could it be, zeph, and I’m just putting it out there, that all this time, girls have in fact always been quite interested in and actually rather capable when it comes to sport?

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          • Zephirine Aug 27, 2018 / 1:14 am

            Well hey, who knew?

            Like

        • thelegglance Aug 27, 2018 / 10:09 am

          As humans, we look for patterns that aren’t always there. I was partly behind the creation of a women’s team at my club, and that’s about 10 years ago now. I’m trying to remember what motivated it, what caused the desire to set one up.

          I don’t think there was a clamour from girls and women to have a side, it was more a question of a Field of Dreams approach, with maybe four or five players to begin with. Certainly the first couple of games needed men to make up the numbers as fielders and tail-enders, but the biggest help came from a neighbouring club who already had a women’s team and loaned players to get it going, plus plenty of advice and providing the opposition for us in full knowledge that we had a team of novices. At that initial point there was no interest or help from anything to do with the ECB or the county, it was all done from within the club, and the relationship with another club nearby.

          Perhaps as much as anything it was the England women doing well at the time that provided the spark. Subsequent to that, the county haven’t been too bad and have given some help, but there absolutely wasn’t any initially, and no initiative to encourage clubs to make it happen.

          Quite a few of those early players were older women whose daughters were showing an interest in the game, and they were the kind of people who decided to play to get the thing into existence while their daughters were growing up, so they had a team to play in when they were old enough. It worked too.

          But I have to say that my suspicion is that the primer for the whole thing was the England women’s team inspiring people to start a side; from that point it became what is always the biggest driver of cricket anywhere – local clubs deciding to do something about it.

          Like

  2. northernlight71 Aug 25, 2018 / 10:55 pm

    The thing that strikes me most about this article is that it is scrupulously fair and even handed. You give the ECB more credit than I would for some of the things they’ve kind of done, and show an understanding of their “thinking” (where it exists) and their position that goes above and beyond basic empathy.
    And still, they come out of it looking like the narrow, thoughtless, ignorant and unprincipled bunch that they truly are. If any of them dared read this with an open mind, they might even begin to feel a tiny bit embarrassed, should they retain any capacity for insight within their tiny brains.

    Liked by 2 people

    • thelegglance Aug 26, 2018 / 9:55 am

      I can’t do the Sean and Dmitri furious denunciations I’m afraid. They’re so much better at them I don’t even try!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. kenaz82 Aug 25, 2018 / 11:14 pm

    I wonder if anyone has a similar experience to me on twitter? I was putting forth the free-to-air point to Bumble, forcibly but rationally. Bumble is obviously very pro-Sky and dismisses the notion that free-to-air has had a detrimental effect. I believe I pointed out the difference between viewership of the 2005 and 2009 Ashes – this was my final remark. Following that, about a day later, I discovered Bumble had blocked me!!
    I was a bit surprised to say the least. I thought he was competing for ”national treasure”? I myself used to like his beery down to earth charm at one time. But…
    It wasn’t even like the debate was going anywhere. It was basically winding down. But he blocked me for no other reason than that I disagreed with him about Sky’s paywalling.

    Liked by 2 people

    • northernlight71 Aug 26, 2018 / 8:29 am

      Bumble is a bit like the Queen Mother when it comes to National Treasure status – too fond of his own publicity, probably quite unlikeable in private and a bit of an anachronism.
      I noticed very recently that he was involved in some “banter” with some Indian fans on Twitter and they kept mentioning some player called “Viru.” Bumble hadn’t a clue who they were talking about. Now you might think a man who makes his living commentating on cricket might have come across Virender Sehwag before, but not a bit of it. And he didn’t even try to hide his ignorance.
      I guess what I’m trying to say is – being blocked by someone with such a narrow viewpoint is more of a badge of honour than anything else. The foolish always try to block out the wise.

      Liked by 2 people

      • d'Arthez Aug 26, 2018 / 9:39 am

        Viru is really not that hard to work out. Just as Cooky, Rooty, Moeeny, Jimmy, Stuey and such are not hard to work out. Yes, I can imagine people (eg. people who are new to the game) struggle with something like Whispering Death or the Wall because those nicknames are not derived from the actual name, but from the performances and actions of said bowler and batsman.

        Still, as a professional commentator, you should know these things. Sehwag averaged nearly 50 over his Test career, played match defining knocks for a decade in international cricket, so he can hardly be considered an unknown like one Test wonders such as Darren Pattinson, Mason Crane, Scott Borthwick, Bryce McGain, Hardus Viljoen, etc. If you can’t remember some of those people, than can happen, even as a professional commentator. If you can’t remember people who have had short careers in international cricket without ever setting the the world alight, that can happen. We can’t remember everything. Likewise you may not know who was opening for England in the 1890s, or the South African opener who had a stellar record in the fourth innings of Tests from the interbellum years. But Viru is hardly a distant memory, unless you have drowned your sorrows so much in alcohol, that Korshakov has rendered anything longer than 3 seconds ago as a distant memory and completely forgotten.

        When people in authority or in positions of great influence are proudly proclaiming ignorance, you know the game is up. Just become part of a self-centred cabal happily riding roughshod over the institutions (ie. the game) they are supposedly serving.

        You would think a lobotomised squirrel would display less ignorance about cricket than a professional commentator. Bumble is trying his best to prove us wrong.

        Like

        • d'Arthez Aug 26, 2018 / 9:44 am

          I made a mistake while writing the last paragraph. It should read:

          You would think a professional commentator would display less ignorance about cricket than a lobotomised squirrel. Bumble is trying his best to prove us wrong.

          Like

        • Elaine Simpson-Long Aug 27, 2018 / 9:00 am

          The Wall is Drahid am I correct? And have I spelled his name right? But who is Whispering Death? A Windies player?

          Like

          • thelegglance Aug 27, 2018 / 10:14 am

            Michael Holding. So named because of the silence of his run up.

            Like

    • Mark Aug 26, 2018 / 10:48 am

      To play devils advocate for a minute what do you expect Bumble to say regards free to air TV? He is employed by a company that makes its money by having a non free to air model. His hands our tied even if he agreed with you. I can’t imagine his bosses would be happy if he was on twitter saying how crap Sky have been for cricket. Or How he wishes cricket was back on the BBC.

      It would be better if he didn’t block you, but that is his choice. It’s how twitter works. That is the thing about Twitter, it does become an echo chamber of opinions you only agree with. It’s he nature of the beast.

      Like

      • Sophie Aug 26, 2018 / 11:33 am

        I don’t know. His one argument is that young people don’t watch TV. I clearly know the wrong young people.

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        • WHS Sep 13, 2018 / 8:02 pm

          Yes you do. It’s not the 70s, with the family gathered in the living room to watch Morecambe and Wise with 28 million other folk. Kids these days watch programmes or films by downloading or streaming them, and that will be the model of the future. Thinking “stick it back on BBC2” is the panacea to all cricket’s ills is sloppy thinking.

          Like

      • LordCanisLupus Aug 26, 2018 / 11:52 am

        I agree with much of this, but there is always a but…

        It’s the almost universal love in for Sky Sports that gets me. Every bit of coverage they do is lauded. It’s as if the media are terrified of them, that there is some hold over them. It’s more than just hating the BBC. It is about more than that.

        With cricket the question is always posed, if you take cricket away from Sky (a) who wants it and (b) will you take the drop in revenue? The question should be can a sport sustain itself as mass participation if it wilfully excludes large swathes of the public who can’t afford to pay for all the sport on the channels – and no, just subscribing to cricket isn’t a sensible option. Not the way Sky have priced it. So while the adoring press media pundits wax lyrical about Sky, it’s akin to praising up how great the opera is, or ballet. It’s for those that can afford it, and not a mass viewing event. You’d love to hope that if England got to the Semi-Final and/or the Final of the World Cup next year, they’d throw it open to the general public on a meaningful channel – it will mean more people watch it, more people might get Sky, more people might get into cricket – but we know that won’t happen.

        Instead of a partnership, this is a dependency. Sky tires of cricket, it goes, and there’s no-one to replace it. Then the shit will hit the fan. The T20 Blast grows year on year as people hear about it, go to it, and in many cases (not mine) enjoy it. It has eff all to do with Sky, in my opinion. The new competition, whatever it is, is going to need to start from scratch. Good luck.

        Like

        • Mark Aug 26, 2018 / 12:14 pm

          Yes I agree with that, but I’m not talking about journalists who are not employed by Sky defending Sky. And you are right to point out how bizarre that it is. I’m simply saying you can’t expect a Sky pundit to be out there biting the hand that feeds him.

          I think many journalists have Sky packages, and are able to afford it. Some may even get their companies to pay for it because it’s a necessary part of their job, That is why it was so funny seeing those who didn’t have a BT contract getting so angry about the Ashes.

          My take is that many cricket pundits are nothing more than ECB mouthpieces, and so they don’t criticise Sky because that means attacking the ECB line. It’s as simple as that.

          Like

          • LordCanisLupus Aug 26, 2018 / 12:17 pm

            Of course – hence I agreed with most of it. Bumble blocking him rather than making a cogent, persuasive case is typical. And you don’t have to have played at the top level to know that. I’d listen to him when it comes to facing electric pace, but not when it comes to TV viewing and forward strategy. He’s Selfey with a microphone.

            I see your mate, the Custis man, was on this morning….

            Like

          • Mark Aug 26, 2018 / 12:45 pm

            Ah yes, Jose’s long lost adopted son. He was almost in tears this morning. Why does a so called Newcastle fan care so very much about Man U? It’s a mystery to me.

            Like

      • kenaz82 Aug 26, 2018 / 1:00 pm

        I would have expected him to argue his view, or merely let the argument tail off (which is what was happening by that stage), rather than block me!

        Like

        • kenaz82 Aug 26, 2018 / 1:04 pm

          Blocking me shows he cannot answer my arguments and convincingly win the argument and/or cannot even abide the presence of a dissenting opinion. It is childish in the extreme. (It would be different if I was pelting with abuse, or expletives of course, but I wasn’t). Pathetic little man.

          Like

          • WHS Sep 13, 2018 / 8:09 pm

            What if he thinks he’s made his point, he’s right, yet you continue to bore on? There are plenty of bores who think Sky is evil and putting Tests back on BBC2 is the panacea for all cricket’s ills, and will not listen to reasoned contradiction. Even this article here thinks an enormous cut in cricket’s funding – which will mean cutting cricketers’ support, coaching, and wages – is something to grin and bear so long as it means cricket back on the sainted BBC. This is cult stuff.
            If Bumble makes an argument to you and you either don’t listen or refuse to consider it, he’s not obliged to keep repeating myself for your amusement.

            Like

    • AB Aug 26, 2018 / 9:10 pm

      Yeah, he’s blocked me too. I didn’t even argue with him, I just replied to one of his tweets in which he claimed that “recreational cricket was stronger and more popular than ever” with a link to some stats from sport england showing the truth of the decline.

      Total denial amongst sky sports commentators. They simply don’t want to hear it. Anyone who has the courage to actually speak the truth, are mocked, ostracised, and blocked.

      Like

  4. kenaz82 Aug 25, 2018 / 11:15 pm

    I should point out that this is the first time I have ever been blocked on twitter – I’m a bit of a newbie.

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus Aug 26, 2018 / 12:07 pm

      Kenaz82,

      Echoing TLG’s welcome.

      I have been blocked by Jade Dernbach, which amuses me no end, Simon Wilde, presumably because I was beastly to his mate Giles Clarke, and Paul Newman, which is like a badge of honour. All three have something in common – I never directly tweeted any of them. I am not about to get into arguments on Twitter with any of them (a two hour rage-fest with John Etheridge was definitely the exception to that rule – was it really three years ago). The thing is, I have about four other accounts I can see all they write so it’s pointless.

      On the subject of “National Treasure” Bumble. Nope. Not for me. I’m a curmudgeon at the best of times, but while he goes on about “getting on with the game”, sometimes rightly, his “conversations” with members of the crowd are teeth-itchingly dreadful and seem to exist for his so-called comedy routine. Being a treasure is a bit more than a bit of off the wall bantz, and a self parody. Doesn’t surprise me in the least, because he’s another of these who clearly, when it comes down to his dna, is very much “you’ve not played international cricket and I have”. I’m not even sure I follow him on Twitter, I care that much about his “input”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • kenaz82 Aug 26, 2018 / 3:42 pm

        How often has Bumble repeated that anecdote about being hit by Thommo in the crown jewels? Pure after-dinner guest speaking tedium. And whenever he comes up to the Riverside he – and the rest of the Sky fraternity – spend the time complaining about the cold, wrapped up like Eskimos; I was up for the Sussex Twenty20 Quarter-Final, and while the temperatures had noticeably dropped it wasn’t that bad! I’ve seen it much colder (March University fixtures!!).

        Sorry to hijack this discussion by the way – the article was very interesting and I am in thorough agreement. It is just these things are intertwined, Sky, ECB, i.e., general, treating the fans like manure.

        Like

        • thelegglance Aug 26, 2018 / 3:44 pm

          Don’t worry about that. Discussions go in all directions, there’s no requirement or expectation it has to stick to the post subject. But yes, they are inter-related.

          Like

      • Benny Aug 26, 2018 / 4:26 pm

        John Arlott was a national treasure. So too Brian Johnston. Bumble is more like the court jester.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. jomesy Aug 26, 2018 / 9:50 am

    Odd that “trust” (an entirely objectively measurable matter) isn’t in there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • d'Arthez Aug 26, 2018 / 9:58 am

      Trusts and other financial instruments are how Giles and co. stow away their ill gotten monies from hanging out with wannabe dictators, known frauds, etc, while games of cricket are being played.
      The singular probably refers to bribes, mostly bribes not being paid. These can be financial or unwarranted deference to one’s supposed superiors, or putting it slightly more politely, being part of a clique or cult of whatever which holds sway. That is why there is plenty of trust when people are engaging in backstabbing of ousiders (@KPGenius), but no trust whatsoever whenever an outsider makes an outrageous remark (“let’s practice batting instead of fitness”).
      I can see how even the ECB would have a problem inserting either the singular Trust or plural Trusts, in any of their documents.

      Like

  6. Glenn Aug 26, 2018 / 10:34 am

    The Cricket World Cup in Britain next year would give cricket a boost if some of it (England games/final etc) was on terrestrial tv. But I suppose it is all on sky with perhaps some free to air highlights late at night.

    The football and Rugby Union World Cups are live on terrestrial giving the sports – especially Rugby – a boost.

    Like

  7. Zephirine Aug 26, 2018 / 11:11 am

    That’ll be the largely invisible Cricket World Cup.

    It should, of course, be part of the entirely sensible and public-spirited ‘crown jewels’ system, on FTA in full. Lord McLaurin has a lot to answer for.

    Like

    • Mark Aug 26, 2018 / 11:41 am

      Yes, McLaurin wanted it, although the Blair government was eager to help in its love in with Murdoch. Never forget it was a Labour govt that removed cricket from the “ public spirited” crown jewels list.

      Like

      • Zephirine Aug 26, 2018 / 1:35 pm

        Ahem. House rules. Party politics, let’s not go there.

        Like

      • oreston Aug 26, 2018 / 2:35 pm

        Not sure what this proves, given that subsequent administrations since 2010 (coalition and Tory) have displayed absolutely no interest whatever in reversing that decision. They’re all as bad as one another (hope that’s sufficiently non-partisan!) and are unlikely now to be interested in helping a sport that’s increasingly perceived as a minority interest, elitist pursuit. Note: I said “perceived as.”

        Like

  8. oreston Aug 26, 2018 / 11:42 am

    A mission statement is neither a business plan nor a governing document. Often (as you say) it can amount to little more than PR blather – drafted so that senior management can delude themselves that they’re decent, reasonable human beings but which even their own employees would have trouble relating it to their actual day-to-day experience of the outfit.
    This document is essentially meaningless since it embodies no enforceable obligations and has little connection with the governance of cricket as it actually happens in the real World.
    Still it is a bit of an inconvenient truth that it’s so obviously completely at variance with reality and I bet whoever drafted it never imagined it would be picked apart in a blog post like this, though I doubt they’ll actually be embarrassed.
    The big takeaway from this piece of corporate nonsense? “Hypocrisy unleashed.”

    Like

  9. Mark Aug 26, 2018 / 12:36 pm

    Wow, there a lot of empty seats in this Watford vs Palace game, Sky are desperately trying to hide it by keeping camera angle from rising up the stands.

    Perhaps Sunday kick offs are not that popular for many people.

    Like

  10. Riverman21 Aug 26, 2018 / 3:54 pm

    I love coming here to read because of the quality of exactly this sort of writing. Much better than reading the Sunday papers. Thank you.

    I’m tempted to write a really long comment but will keep it as brief as possible.

    On the point of More Play. One of the biggest changes I’ve noticed in my lifetime of following cricket is the change in the make up of those playing the game. In the 70s/80s cricket was not a niche sport mostly played by public schools. There was a much wider reach. I learnt to play in state school where cricket was widely played in the summer months both in lunch breaks and out of school informally as well as during sports lessons and matches. And yes the much discussed FTA coverage meant that I along with many others could develop knowledge of the game and players by watching Sunday League/Cup matches and Test Matches.

    I can also remember clearly the travelling support of Lancashire and Yorkshire at the Oval in the late 70s not to mention the West Indies fans. These were fans that sat in the stands, liked a beer and were bloody knowledgeable about their cricket. The county teams were a mix. Some through university in the mould of the old “gentlemen” but also guys who had come through from state school. For every Mark Nicholas there was someone like Trevor Jesty, Grahame Clinton, Stuart Turner.

    It doesn’t feel like that now.

    Good luck to anyone trying to make their way in the county game but I don’t see the playing field is as level as it was.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Benny Aug 26, 2018 / 4:33 pm

    This may be naive but, if exposure on TV is deemed to be unimportant, how come so many businesses spend millions on TV commercials?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mark Aug 26, 2018 / 4:58 pm

      To paraphrase Captain Mainwaring …..”I was wondering who would be the first to spot that.”

      Like

    • kenaz82 Aug 26, 2018 / 6:17 pm

      (Flintoff) ”Are You In?”

      (Person without subscription) ”I’ve not been in since 2005 mate”.

      Like

  12. Mark Aug 26, 2018 / 5:19 pm

    “Giles Clarke once said (smugly) that no one cares about administration.”

    Quite, and no one cares about mission statements either. Because they are usually vanity statements quite often written by Public relations companies who have been hired for the purpose. In my view organisations that know what they are doing don’t need mission statements because they are run by people who know what the mission is.

    “The ECB will make the game more accessible and inspire the next generation of players, coaches, officials and volunteers, with a particular focus on families and the young.

    Ah yes….the mothers who can’t count to twenty overs, and the kids who can’t count to six balls. The ECB is now targeting morons with IQ’s of about 70. But they love burgers and fries.

    “The ECB will deliver winning men’s and women’s teams across the international and domestic spectrum that inspire and excite fans through on-field performance and their connection with the public on and off the field.”

    I don’t remotely care about the woman’s team. Sorry, but I don’t. Not Interested. I notice we now have to have a concept to fit in with “equality” policy namely “player of the match” & not “man of the match.” for matches involving no woman. Brilliant! Political correctness at its finest. Which non male will be awarded “player of the match” in the next test match? What will they be then….. Klingons? Yetis? I’m not offended in the woman’s match if we have “woman of the match,” so what’s the problem with man of the match?

    “The fan will be at the heart of our game, our thinking and our events, to improve and personalise the cricket experience for all.”

    That is a blatant lie.

    “The ECB will make decisions in the best interests of the game and use the power of cricket to make a positive difference to communities around England and Wales. Protecting the integrity of our sport is critical and we will ensure we have the right governance and processes to achieve that.

    More lies , and why is it the ECBs job to make a difference to communities? Your job is to manage cricket, and facilitate, and promote opportunities for people to play cricket. if communities want to benefit from that then good luck to them.

    “The ECB will increase the game’s revenues, invest our resources wisely, and administer them responsibly to secure the growth of the game.”

    Define wisely? And growth of the game. Large salaries paid to people who every few years basically have either Sky or BT to sell the the tv rights to seems a bit excessive. The ECB have paid a number of people large salaries to remove cricket from the publics radar. How is this wise?

    Like

  13. thebogfather Aug 27, 2018 / 2:21 pm

    Still unable to find the enthusiasm to write something new, so thought I’d just stick something that I wrote about three and a half years ago here…

    This
    Is Quite The Commotion
    Where taking the p!ss
    Shows the ECB’s devotion
    To their own chaos theory
    Towards any reality query…

    This
    Is where England Cricket stands
    Sat on their hands whilst hiding their eyes
    Perpetuating the bland
    Whilst massaging the lies
    Warding away the outsiders despised…

    This
    Is where their failed foundation collapses
    Under the crumbling 4th estate
    Slowly awakening to or covering their lapses
    Truth evolving e’en if too late
    Summoning a summer finality debate

    This
    Is what we all knew was the truth
    The cracks in the self-love addicts grow wide
    Cricket overshadowed by shallowness proved
    Slack standards in abandoned principles reside
    This tidal-wave of questions from outside to inside

    This
    Is The Right Commotion

    Obsessively so

    (for the good of Cricket)

    Like

  14. Kenaz82 Aug 28, 2018 / 6:27 am

    The more I think about what has gone wrong with cricket I think it can all be boiled down to the fact corporates/marketing people (e.g. Harrison, Giles Clarke, Graves) have hijacked cricket. Most of the problems arise from this fact, people who can barely hide their contempt for the preexisting sport hijacking the sport for financial gain. Disappointingly this group have adopted former cricketers (Strauss) into their exulted order and overlap with media conglomerates and their sycophantic employees (Sky), co-conspirators.

    It sounds like wacko conspiracy theory stuff but it basically is true. I wish it wasn’t!

    Liked by 1 person

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