Yorkshire CCC - '˜We have to leave the game in a better state than we found it'
'RUBBISH!' cried out one Yorkshire member.
“Did you say this decision is being made on April 1?” shouted another.
The interjections came during Saturday’s annual meeting at Headingley as Yorkshire chairman Steve Denison outlined the club’s support for the proposed new city-based T20 franchise tournament.
Although the interruptions were made more in jest than angst, they highlighted the challenge that cricket faces in trying to convince a largely ageing county membership of the merits of a second T20 competition.
The last time I checked, the average age of the Yorkshire membership was 69, although I might possibly have got that figure the wrong way round.
Levity aside, it explains why there is resistance among some people to expanding T20, and why the County Championship is the only thing that matters to most Yorkshire members.
For what it is worth, you will find no argument hereabouts concerning the primacy of the Championship, but although T20 might be considered by some to be an evil, it is perhaps a necessary one – unless one is blind to the financial realities of the county game.
Granted, another tournament – no matter how short and sweet – will do nothing for the jam-packed fixture list, about which more elsewhere in this paper.
But the new tournament will do much for the immediate health of the 18 first-class counties, who will each receive £1.3m per year for the first five years of the competition – regardless of whether they are one of the eight hosting venues.
After an annual meeting in which Denison’s words were greeted more with interest than resistance, he told me: “My plea to members, my plea to cricket lovers, is to be open-minded.
“The reality is that these are challenging times for cricket, and that cricket has evolved over the years constantly; that’s why it’s still here.
“I think this new competition can not only help the counties financially, but also underpin that part of the game that our members really love, which is the County Championship.
“I think the best way of preserving the Championship is to have a vibrant, cash-generative, bringing-new-people-into-the-game format, which is what this new franchise tournament would do.”
Denison and his fellow county officials will meet the England and Wales Cricket Board on March 27 to hear the final proposal for the new competition, which is set to start in 2020.
During Saturday’s meeting, he explained how it would run alongside the existing NatWest T20 Blast and feature eight sides.
“From 2020, there would be two complementary T20 competitions, with the existing one played on a regional basis with groups of six counties,” he said.
“The new competition would be much more like the Indian Premier League and the Big Bash.
“There would be eight teams only, with completely new identities, playing at eight venues around the country with 35 games in total.
“There would be squads of 15 for each of the eight teams, three overseas players in each squad, two wild cards (where players can be extracted, if you like, from the existing county competition into the new competition), player drafts and salary bands.”
Denison’s enthusiasm was echoed by Yorkshire’s chief executive Mark Arthur, who described the new tournament as “very necessary”.
“The whole ethos behind this development is to attract a new audience,” he said.
“It’s about generating a whole new audience, inspiring young people, boys and girls, to get involved in the game of cricket.
“At Yorkshire, we’re very supportive of the new plan. I’m hoping that the majority of counties will be behind it, too.”
Whether Headingley is one of the eight hosting venues depends on whether Yorkshire succeed in building their proposed new main stand.
As reported in The Yorkshire Post, the club are – in Arthur’s words – “almost out of time” as they seek to plug a £4m funding gap to finance the project, which is needed to guarantee international cricket in Leeds post-2019.
“It’s not a given that Leeds will be a host city (for the new T20 tournament),” said Arthur. “It will be a given if we develop the new stand.
“It would be like hosting four additional one-day internationals a year, and although there wouldn’t be a Yorkshire team as such, it would be a team run out of Headingley.
“Fundamentally, we have to vote for the good of the game, and, as Sir Donald Bradman said, we have a responsibility to leave the game in a better state than we found it.”