Lies, Damn Lies, And The ECB

The ECB launched the new logo and website for next year’s The Hundred competition last Wednesday, including a press briefing and numerous interviews. Neither was particularly well-received, with stock photos on the webpage being widely mocked and the logo not managing to excite many potential fans.

Wisden editor Lawrence Booth and The Cricketer editor Simon Hughes also seemed to be under the impression that the ECB would also be releasing their research which led to the creation of this new format. From its initial inception as a T20 competition, through the creation of a new hundred-ball format to the present day,  the ECB’s representatives have always consistently said that their decisions were based on a large body of research. That the Hundred was the result of a logical, scientific decision-making on the basic of rock-solid evidence. Instead of a full release however, The Hundred’s managing director instead published a handful of statistics on a single side of A4 paper. This is in spite of Sanjay Patel claiming there were a hundred million ‘data points’ the ECB used to shape their choices.

As far as I can gather from the media reports, these are the figures which the ECB released:

  1. Ticket-buyers for professional cricket in English cricket are 95% white.
  2. Ticket-buyers for professional cricket in English cricket are 82% male.
  3. 65% of ticket-buyers for professional cricket in English cricket are affluent. (Someone who would be considered upper or middle class based on their job)
  4. Ticket-buyers for professional cricket in English cricket have an average age of 50.
  5. 75% of families would prefer a game that is under 3 hours in length and finished by 9pm.
  6. Almost 75% of families want “fast-paced, high energy action” to be the priority.
  7. 10.5 million people are interested in cricket in England & Wales, but only 1.1 million attended games. Rugby union, which appeals to similar demographics, has a total attendance of 5 million per year.
  8. 9 million non-cricket fans might be interested in cricket if it was simpler to understand. Many of these say it is a more complicated sport than football, rugby union and American sports.
  9. For adults, cricket is a top 5 sport in terms of the size of its ‘engaged audience’. In children it ranks 7th, and in teens 11th.
  10. 5% of children aged 6-15 has cricket as one of their top 2 favourite sports.
  11. Roughly 75% of current cricket fans started liking the sport before they turned 16.
  12. 7% of primary school children are playing cricket.

The first thing which leaps out at me is that many of the stats seem highly selective, to the point where it seems like the ECB is cherrypicking the figures to justify their decision. Take for example the term “cricket”. By using the catch-all term rather than specifying formats, the ECB is using people who are fans of Test cricket to justify something even shorter than T20. In 2015, almost half of the total cricket attendance for professional cricket was in Tests and County Championship games. Is it really a surprise that the average audience for these games are old, since the majority of scheduled days are workdays for most of England’s adult population? Is it a surprise that the average audience for Test matches tends to be wealthy, when the cheapest adult ticket for the first four days of the Oval Test this summer costs £90?

It’s worth noting that Surrey CCC have issued a rebuttal of the first four stats by helpfully releasing their own format-specific numbers. Their T20 sales figures, which you would expect to have far more relevance to The Hundred than ones including Test cricket, suggest much younger people are buying tickets for the shorter form of the game. Surrey’s T20 ticket-buyers are 38 years old on average, 12 years younger than the age suggested by the ECB’s data.

I also wonder which format the 9.4 million cricket fans who don’t attend professional cricket games prefer. I know that over 8 million were watching an Ashes Test in 2005 at the same time, which leads me to think they’re Test fans. If that is a large portion of the ECB’s expected market for The Hundred, is it realistic to predict a significant proportion of them are likely to love a format even shorter than T20? Especially one happening at the same time as a Test series?

The term “ticket-buyer” might also seem misleading. People seem to take it to be representative of ‘the audience’, but that is not the case. I’ve yet to see an example of a 6 year old buying a ticket for their family, for example. If we imagine a scenario where a 40 year old mother took her two 10 year old twins to see the cricket: The average age of the group would be 20, but the only one counted in the ECB’s figures would be the oldest person.

The second thing I notice (and arguably the more important point) is that even if you take the numbers at face value, they don’t automatically make the argument for The Hundred’s existence.

The statistic which most directly makes the case for a shorter format is that 75% of ‘families’ would prefer a form of cricket which lasts less than three hours and finishes before 9pm. That is entirely expected. If anything, I’m curious about the 25% of families who don’t want those things. So this would mean families would be less likely to engage in and attend a T20 competition where games regularly lasted around 3 hours and finished after nine o’clock like the Blast.

But if most The Men’s Hundred games will last around 2.5 hours and finish at around 8.45pm, is that a significant improvement? Do a majority of families like that duration and finish time? I very much doubt it. In order to prove it, the ECB would have to release the full survey results for how many people wanted games 3, 2.5, 2 and 1.5 hours long, and how many objected to games which lasted until 10pm, 9pm, 8pm and 7pm. Personally, I suspect parents would actually prefer to attend a format where games lasted less than 2 hours and finished before 5pm, which certainly wouldn’t describe The Hundred.

As for most of the other issues the ECB’s stats identify, it’s unclear how The Hundred is the best solution. Do we expect the The Hundred attendances to be more racially representative when county cricket, where the vast majority of players for The Hundred will come from, isn’t? Last season, there were just 8 “black or mixed-race English cricketers active” in the County Championship. British Asians represent 35% of recreational cricketers in England but far, far less in professional teams.

Will more people attend live cricket when the number of grounds is reduced to eight? Is there anything intrinsically more likely to increase the percentage of women buying tickets when cricket is 16% shorter? Is the fact that innings have twenty fewer balls enough to simplify cricket for people who find it ‘complicated’ if you don’t do anything about LBW or the jargon (like fielding positions, shots and bowling styles)? What percentage of people who are primarily Test cricket fans are excited by or interested in T20 and shorter formats? Will more children love and play cricket than they did when Tests were on free-to-air TV in 2005?

If the ECB’s research genuinely points towards The Hundred as the best possible option then they have nothing to fear from releasing it in full, not just to the press but also to the public. But the little of it they’ve published so far raises far more questions than answers…

As always, please add your comments below.

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33 thoughts on “Lies, Damn Lies, And The ECB

  1. Mark May 19, 2019 / 8:46 pm

    “75% of families would prefer a game that is under 3 hours in length and finished by 9pm.”

    But wasn’t this exactly why 20/20 was started? And when it did, wasn’t it supposed to finish in 3 hours? If the ECB forced teams to bowl at 15 overs an hour, then a 20/20 innings could be done in just over one hour twenty minutes. Ten minutes for the change over, and everything is done and dusted in the three hour time frame. It’s the authorities who are to blame by letting the games go on too long. (If time really is the priority they claim.)

    Also, if the priority is to finish by 9pm, and the new game is for mums and kids why not just start the games at 5pm? They will be done by 8pm.

    “Almost 75% of families want “fast-paced, high energy action” to be the priority.”

    Perhaps they should choose another sport then?

    “9 million non-cricket fans might be interested in cricket if it was simpler to understand. Many of these say it is a more complicated sport than football, rugby union and American sports.”

    9 million non medical people say they MIGHT be interested in taking up brain surgery if it was simpler to understand. This is the stupidest stat of them all. If my uncle was my neighbour, and my auntie married the milkman, my cousin might be a builder from Margate. Seriously! The ECB is basing this on what non cricket fans might want?

    “For adults, cricket is a top 5 sport in terms of the size of its ‘engaged audience’. In children it ranks 7th, and in teens 11th………..5% of children aged 6-15 has cricket as one of their top 2 favourite sports.”

    So if it’s so popular why do we need a new format?

    “roughly 75% of current cricket fans started liking the sport before they turned 16.”

    Is this likely when the next stat says this?….

    “7% of primary school children are playing cricket.”

    The ECB is going to push their utopian dream regardless of what the fans want. For me, I’m just pissed off the ECB has stolen the cricket summer from my generation. Us 95 % white males (who apparently pay) will have to watch in May and September. With a bloody bobble hat, and thermals!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Chris Gore May 20, 2019 / 7:49 am

    Problem, at this stage is that the ECB have nowhere to go. There doesn’t appear to be an easy way out.

    The Best will not be playing the Best. Or will the ECB be able to change the Home Office regulations which currently restrict which overseas players can be employed?

    Will the ECB insist the free to air commentary don’t mention all the difficult to understand batting, fielding and bowling?

    And why dismantle the Kia Super League?

    Looks all too similar to organising a championship match at a small out of county out-ground, being able to only put in 600 seats, and then realise you still have more members, with a right to attend, than capacity – so have to make it all ticket, and so undermine your original premise of extending the audience locally.

    What is it about cricket decision makers?

    Liked by 1 person

    • dannycricket May 20, 2019 / 3:30 pm

      I don’t think it’s limited to just cricket. All sports seem riddled with it, to the point where a well-run sports body is very much the exception. Although the ECB is probably well below average even amongst their peers. It would be funny, like W1A or The Office, if it wasn’t so predictable and repetitive.

      Like

  3. Mark May 20, 2019 / 5:07 pm

    Can we end this guff about mother’s and kids now? If the ECB really wanted that model they would put it on earlier in the day.The ECB won’t do that because they want the hospitality revenue. Mums and kids are not going to be found there.

    The ECB wants a profitable new sport that they can make a shit load of cash from and which they own the rights to. End off story. Everything else is just bullshit.

    They couldn’t care less who the crowd is as long as they pay the Wonga. I suspect they may end up needing the very same “old white men” they apparently so despise to make it a success.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rooto May 20, 2019 / 8:06 pm

    It’s the last stat that’s the killer. Kids don’t play anymore. This must be a bigger priority, and in schools, not just with money-spinning schemes to take parents’ cash at weekends. Get lobbying. Start schmoozing politicians rather than businesses.

    Like

  5. Mark May 20, 2019 / 9:05 pm

    Harrison is on Tuffers and Vaughn after 10 pm if you want a good laugh!!

    Like

    • Mark May 20, 2019 / 9:15 pm

      1 New fans don’t understand the game according to Harrison and can’t make out who’s winning on the tv.

      2 I pad mentioned….. drink.

      3 we are all living around major cities…..drink Are we?

      4 multiculturalism……drink

      5 Sky is crickets biggest friend for the last 25 years……drink

      They interviewed 100,000 potential fans. Not sure who these people but they don’t understand the rules.

      6 young people…..drink

      7 watching on different platforms……drink

      Did you know cricket was about bat and ball? Apparently Harrison has just worked this out.

      Like

      • Mark May 20, 2019 / 9:22 pm

        Vaughn just asked him if they would sell 16.4 rights to the rest of the world and Harrison’s is waffling. He keeps talking but nothing is coming out of his mouth. They want to have it at the Olympics.

        Mark Chapman just asked him about the all the drunks and he keeps talking about the kids.

        He thinks they may have family stands, but he is not sure.

        This is a car crash. Fair play to Vaughn and Chapman they are asking the tough questions.

        He has now retreated to growing the game. He is absolutely serious he tells us. Chapman just pointed out how expensive it is. He is waffling again.

        Now claiming the prices will be cheaper….hmmm

        Like

        • Glenn May 22, 2019 / 9:53 am

          Why have 16.4 overs at the Olympics. It would be T20 surely?

          Like

      • nonoxcol May 21, 2019 / 2:34 pm

        “1 New fans don’t understand the game according to Harrison and can’t make out who’s winning on the tv.”

        Has the British population really become this much dumber since I was an 8-year-old child? I guess so, otherwise we wouldn’t put up with charlatans like this.

        Like

        • dannycricket May 21, 2019 / 3:56 pm

          In fairness, I think they do relate this to the sport being less accessible (ie not on free TV). They do always go on to say that the partnership with Sky was great and no blame attaches to themselves or their predecessors though.

          Like

      • LordCanisLupus May 21, 2019 / 9:45 pm

        Did you dress up as Scooby Doo and create a beer snake with all those drinks?

        Like

    • LordCanisLupus May 20, 2019 / 9:37 pm

      Harrison doesn’t make me laugh. Downton did. He was useless, and deep down he knew it. This guy thinks he’s cricket’s saviour.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Mark May 20, 2019 / 9:29 pm

    Asked who all the top players would be who will be playing in the 16.4 he veered off into talking about the woman’s team. What has that got to do with 16.4.

    This man earns over £700 thousand a year, let that sink in!

    Liked by 1 person

    • LordCanisLupus May 20, 2019 / 9:36 pm

      According to a tweeter who appears to be related to a member of the ECB he’s getting market rates and doing a top job.

      I wonder why I ever bothered. It’s beyond saving.

      Like

      • Mark May 20, 2019 / 9:48 pm

        Market rates for what? He sounds like a second hand car salesman.

        He just keeps talking fast. If he gets into trouble, he just repeats “growing the game, and the kids.”

        This whole thing is a giant Hail Mary pass! I don’t think they have any idea if it will be a success and I don’t think growing the game is the objective.

        Dosh.

        Like

  7. thelegglance May 21, 2019 / 7:20 am

    I’m chuckling at the idea the ECB are pushing with their selective stats that cricket is more complex than rugby.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dannycricket May 21, 2019 / 7:41 am

      Yeah. I watch most England rugby union matches, and the rules seem arbitrary at best.

      Like

      • thelegglance May 21, 2019 / 7:48 am

        I’m a big rugby fan and go a fair bit. When I take people who aren’t I tell the tale about how people who are slight fans pretend they know what’s going on, while people who really know the rules freely say they haven’t a Scooby why the referee has given that decision. Especially in the tight. You have a better idea on TV.

        Like

        • Mark May 21, 2019 / 8:24 am

          But what gets me is the ECB focus on the easy bits of cricket to understand. Like six ball overs! If people can’t understand that basic concept should a sports governing body be pandering to those people?

          It’s a bit like The FA abolishing goalposts. If these people want a fast paced all action game that is easy to understand maybe they should try the 100 meters.

          The ECB is spending a shed load of money pursuing a public who may……..or may not like cricket by destroying the existing game in pursuit of something new. It’s a huge gamble and if it goes wrong Harrison will have made off with his salary.

          But as Bumble says….. if you don’t like it, don’t come. That doesn’t seem a very nice welcoming message to existing cricket fans who pay their wages. I will be taking Bumbles advice. I won’t be coming.

          Like

          • thelegglance May 21, 2019 / 8:51 am

            Cricket isn’t a complex game. Not in its basic principles – I don’t get how people let this go unchallenged. Sure, once you get into the details of how lbw works, then it has complexity. But football has the offside law with extraordinarily complicated layers of laws and playing regulations. No one says football should be made simpler, people either spend time investing in understanding it, or accepting the issues that arise, or shouting about it when they don’t understand it.

            Cricket is easy. Bowler bowls the ball, batsman hits the ball. They get runs, they get bowled, caught, run out or lbw. It really is a piece of piss. All the stuff about overs is just so much guff, it’s totally peripheral.

            When they were on about abolishing the lbw law, that at least made sense in terms of making it simpler, because it is a barrier to understanding – it’s just a necessary law for the game. Same as offside.

            Rugby is VASTLY more complex as a game. Extraordinarily so.

            It’s a bullshit argument that has been allowed to gain credence.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Mark May 21, 2019 / 9:54 am

            Absolutely!!

            They also contradict themselves with this point…..

            “For adults, cricket is a top 5 sport in terms of the size of its ‘engaged audience’. In children it ranks 7th, and in teens 11th.”

            “Engaged audience”. Seems these people they surveyed understand cricket very well.

            Like

          • nonoxcol May 21, 2019 / 2:40 pm

            I like the rugby comparison, because it’s the only one of the big three national team sports I freely admit to never having fully understood. At least in part because my schools never played it at any level. I’m relieved to hear that a proper fan of both sports confirms what I instinctively believe to be the case.

            But also, in what must be 40-plus years of FTA coverage of the Five/Six Nations and World Cups,nobody has seen fit to dumb down either the coverage or the sport itself in order to attract “new fans”.

            Tom Harrison, take a bow, you’re a true pioneer.

            Fuck the ECB.

            Like

          • LordCanisLupus May 21, 2019 / 8:58 pm

            I have just listened to the whole 24 minutes of this disgusting shit-show.

            I want 2014/15 me back to have a go at it. I miss 2014/15 me. Angry and good. I’d have torn it to smithereens, come back, and ripped it a new arsehole. Now, I just want to give up. Harrison’s a disgrace.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Mark May 21, 2019 / 9:14 pm

            Yes Peter, you would have ripped it apart in 2015. Now the fire has gone out for most of us. As you say, all you can do is laugh,

            Most people don’t give a shit now. It s almost pointless debating these people. We have learned that over the last five years.

            Like

          • LordCanisLupus May 21, 2019 / 9:32 pm

            There’s a part, and Danny is doing us all a great service and transcribing it, where the idiot basically tells you that international cricket is really only for the elite, and not for the common folk. It’s a premium product, so expect premium pricing. While county cricket isn’t, so don’t expect the 100 to be so expensive. It’s wrong on so many levels that if Downton had said it, we’d have ripped it limb from limb. Now it’s one little piece of drivel in an ocean of verbal sewage. Read it, everyone, and weep. He (Harrison, not Danny) gets paid £700k for this.

            Liked by 1 person

          • dannycricket May 22, 2019 / 6:20 am

            I obviously get paid a lot more than that to write here…

            Like

          • Mark May 21, 2019 / 9:42 pm

            I tried to do a live blow by blow of the low lights last night. Danny will have plenty of material to work with… It was drivel. Harrison is the classic bean counter…….Knows The cost of everything, and the value of nothing.

            Like

  8. dArthez May 21, 2019 / 12:48 pm

    It was noted here before, but if 95% of the ticket buyers are White, then that means that non-Whites (at least those playing the game) are grossly underrepresented. Might be sensible to address that elephant in the room, regardless of the format (even if you would maintain that British-Asians have more of an interest in the shorter formats, that should at least show up in the overall stats a bit more then).

    Or has the ECB given up on attracting regular (White) cricket lovers to the Hundred, AND British Asians to the games they organise? Never mind the other minorities.

    If people want fast paced action, sports like Rugby, or ice hockey are better bets than cricket, which is a sport with hundreds (or in the case of The Hundred) 200 discrete pieces of play (the moment the keeper has the ball, it takes 20 seconds or so, before the game actually resumes).

    If they were serious about being home before 9 PM, the games would probably have to end at around 7 PM (due to getting out of the venues, driving home etc). If they were serious about attracting families, they would start most of the games at noon and 3 PM, or thereabout. And we can be certain that none of that is happening of course.

    As for the 5% of kids who have cricket as one of their favorite sports, it is probably not a wild guess that 80% of those kids go to public schools. So which kids do the ECB want to attend?

    The stat with regards to liking the game before they turned 16 is rather useless as well. I could be 50 and fell in love with the game 40 years ago, due to it being in the public domain. Nowadays kids may be 16 and never have consciously SEEN the game anywhere in their lives!

    Liked by 1 person

    • dannycricket May 21, 2019 / 3:54 pm

      I would say that this is linked to the drinking culture at most grounds. Non-white cricket fans, like young families, might not be especially keen to be around large groups of drunk white men. For many Muslims in particular, being underneath a beer snake or near a quaffing drinker might be particularly uncomfortable. But the alcohol brings the ECB and clubs significant revenue, so they choose to ignore it. The Hundred, as far as I can tell, makes no effort to be more inclusive to non-white fans or young families beyond the platitudes of ECB spokesmen (and thus far, they have all been men).

      Like

      • dArthez May 21, 2019 / 9:30 pm

        I must admit, that I know little of the religious makeup of British Asians. But even if we assume that all of them have religious / social objections to alcohol consumption and spending time with drunkards, it still leads to many an uncomfortable question for the ECB.

        If I recall correctly, the Blast was responsible for roughly 50% of all professional cricket attendance. Not sure how much the One Day Cup contributes. But say it contributes another 35%. That still leaves the Championship with 15% (that would be roughly 300k people attending 120 odd games or so; 2500 per game, or roughly 700 per day of cricket). Which might be an overestimate (I really don’t know).

        I really doubt that all the games / venues have the drunkards problem. And even if that were the case, would it not make more sense to ban the alcohol, seeing that it effectively banishes roughly 2/3rds of the potential crowds for these games? And what does it say about the game, if cricket is having the biggest drunkards problem of all major sports in England? Are people running the game so bereft of ideas that they cannot fathom the idea that British Asians might want to drink non-alcoholic beverages and consume kosher / halal foods?

        And is part of the problem not that the ECB takes all revenues, EXCEPT for the drinks and foods sales? It is as if the ECB is deadset on excluding masses of the population. You don’t maximize social impact by pinching every penny you can get, especially in sports, and especially in places where it is not needed.

        It seems like the people at the ECB are paid NOT to think. Or are paid by the number of lies they tell. Guess that would explain Harrison’s salary.

        Like

  9. Sir Peter May 23, 2019 / 10:22 am

    The drink problem at cricket grounds, apart from the citadel, is you can’t bring any in and have to drink revolting over-priced urine that clearly has a negative impact on the target market. As for cricket being slow and subtle (rather than complicated) has the ECB never seen an episode of Downton Abbey? I haven’t either so maybe not a good analogy. In my experience dry and famliy stands work well in Oz but only if they’re winning, Not that difficult is it? Make it free for under 12s or maybe it is? Keep rollin’ BOCs! Don’t let the fire out…

    Like

    • dannycricket May 23, 2019 / 12:03 pm

      One thing the BBL is allow families to bring in food and sealed drinks to all their grounds, which makes things significantly cheaper for them. I can’t imagine the ECB or host counties would allow this kind of lost revenue though.

      Like

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