What’s the story?
English county Essex have confirmed that they will vote against plans for a franchise-based T20 tournament to be introduced, according to Cricbuzz. They become the second county to formally announce that they will not back the plans, with county champions Middlesex being the other.
The majority of counties are yet to make an official decision on whether they will support the idea, although Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Somerset and Leicestershire have confirmed that they will vote in favour.
John Faragher, Essex County Cricket Club Chairman explained Essex’s position in detail. "We do not support the changes to the Articles of Association and consequently the proposed new T20 competition. It is essential that the County Championship, domestic 50-over and T20 competitions are encouraged to grow, and they must be protected,” he said.
"We believe that as a result of the proposed changes, these opportunities will be reduced, that our income overall will suffer and the first class game will be diminished, in contradiction to the ECB's objective which is to grow the game in this country - an objective that is unlikely to be advanced by a competition which would exclude large areas of the country from any involvement in it,” Faragher told Cricbuzz.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has been looking for ways to revitalise T20 cricket in England, and are trying to take a leaf out of other countries’ books, feeding off the success of the Indian Premier League, Big Bash League and other T20 leagues.
The heart of the matter
Despite being nearly 15 years old in England, the ECB has fiddled with its formula regularly in an effort to jazz it up. The tournament has previously been criticised for being too long, although the ‘Finals Day’ – which sees the semi-finals and final played in one day – has proven to be ever-popular.
Moving to a city-based competition would help to build bigger fanbases and create more marquee matchups if the ECB is right in its thinking. However, critics believe it could devalue the T20 event currently in place and leave some counties out in the cold.
For now, the county-based T20 system – featuring 18 teams in two divisions (North and South) will continue, with the proposed eight-team tournament not set to come in until 2020. The ECB needs a three-quarters majority to go through with the proposals. The 18 counties, 21 non-first class counties, Minor Counties Association and MCC will all get to have their say.
T20 cricket may have started in England, but the country’s domestic system has fallen behind the rest – so it’s unsurprising that they want to catch up. However, with the English weather always threatening to be a burden, a two or three-week competition is always in danger of being hit hard.
County fans would have no attachments to new city-based teams, but as T20 competitions across the world have shown, with the right marketing, anything is possible. Moreover, with the lack of free-to-air cricket in the UK, anything that can help to put the sport back in the limelight must be seen as a plus.
But it’s no shock to see counties, especially those who can attract big crowds, looking after their own interests. Essex are one such county who have always been able to bring in the spectators.