The Roar
The Roar

Advertisement

The need for a franchise model in English Twenty20

Roar Rookie
4th January, 2015
7

It’s Big Bash League season again and the success of Australia’s domestic Twenty20 league has left English fans looking on enviously and wondering what might have been.

If English cricket had adopted a similar franchisee-based model instead of the current 18-team county setup, it could all be so different.

English cricket finds itself in a very ironic situation as the T20 format was invented to boost the revenues of counties. But after the ICL and India’s 2007 World Twenty20 win, England has fallen behind.

Cricket in England suffers from two major ailments – falling participation numbers and shrinking grounds at amateur level and being an elitist sports at professional level (Moeen Ali is a welcome exception to this trend).

The game in England has been propped up – as of now – by deals with Sky and BCCI. In the long term both of these are unpredictable relationships carry huge risks for the game in England. The BCCI’s special relationship with England will continue only as long as cricket is successful and that so far has depended on Sky’s deal secured on back of a successful home Ashes in 2005

So what are the current risks and issues with Sky deal?

The main issue is no live telecast of cricket on free-to-air TV. Cricket is a summer sport in the UK but the major summer sport is football. I believe Sky is using the football subscription money to fund cricket, but this means there is no cheaper cricket channel available.

Another issue is that due to the current format of all Twenty20 matches being held on weekdays, there is no live coverage of several matches even for paid subscribers. This arrangement is meant to increase the spectator revenue in the match venues but totally ignores the TV viewer revenues, which is the driver for commercially successful leagues in India and Australia.

Clearly something has to change going forward.

Advertisement

First of all the TV rights for commercial Twenty20 league needs to be separated from rest of the Sky deal, and separate bids should be invited. If successful this will have the major advantage of providing a steady stream of revenues to ECB and counties in addition to the currently unpredictable Sky and BCCI relationships.

Secondly, all the major and minor counties who collectively constitute the English and Welsh cricket board (ECB) have to agree to the new tournament format and the compensation needs to be worked out. These are not insurmountable challenges and can be achieved with some creativity and vision.

For example, in the new city-based franchisee model, the bidders can be asked to tie-up with one or more counties for access to venues. As some others have pointed out there is also a possibility of cross-promotion between footy clubs and new franchises and counties. This can help someway towards upgrading venues and offsetting bidding costs for international matches.

Also, counties can provide non-objection certificates (NOCs) to release players to franchises and can receive a cut from their salaries (like what happens today in IPL). There can also be a catchment area defined for cities, and franchises can be asked to draft a minimum number of players from the major and minor counties in the catchment area.

Then there is the logistics of when and where to arrange the new competition. If it clashes with the existing English Test season then Sky might not like another cricket channel competing with them at the same time. Maybe a totally out of the box solution like having a three-week christmas daytime competition could be an answer.

I think it is only inevitable that the county managements will eventually embrace the change and the only thing that might prolong this outcome could be the fans’ attachment to existing counties. As an outsider I have no attachments to existing counties and I struggle to understand why Manchester is part of Lancashire County or why Sheffield, which founded Yorkshire county, is no more on the cricket map.

To complicate the emotions further, Wales, a separate state with its own language and culture, has only one major county (Cardiff based Glamorgan). They may have to bid jointly with nearby English counties, which could create lots of confusion for the fans.

As a disinterested person, the fun is in imagining the possible permutations and combinations of cities-counties that might bid for such a Twenty20 league.

Advertisement

With no prior knowledge of the UK’s geography and market I used Google and Wikipedia extensively to find out the major regions in the UK, the major and minor counties that belong to each region, the Test match venues by cricketing counties and the major urban areas by population air-traffic and trends.

Based on all this I have proposed a mapping of existing counties to new probable city based franchises and the cricketing venues.

I think the top four would be London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, which pick themselves. It is debatable if London should have second venue. Maybe later but not in the beginning?

Among the rest looking at geography and cricketing pedigree I think Nottingham-Derby and Cardiff-Bristol pick themselves. If we have bids for three more teams then Newcastle, Southampton and one more London team might get a look in.

The final probable franchise list
1) North London at Lords (Middlesex, Essex, and all minor East England counties)
2) Manchester at Old Trafford (Lancashire, and all minor NorthWest counties)
3) Birmingham at Edgbaston (Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and all minor West Midland counties)
4) Nottingham at Trentbridge (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, and all minor East Midland counties)
5) Leeds at Headingley (Yorkshire, and all minor Greater Yorkshire counties)
6) Cardiff-Bristol at SWALEC (Wales, Gloucestershire, Somerset, and all minor Welsh and South West counties)
7) Newcastle-Sunderland at Riverside (Durham, and all minor North East counties)
8) Southampton at Rose Bowl (Hampshire, Sussex and all minor South England counties)
9) South London at the Oval (Surrey, Kent, and all minor South England counties)

close