Sunday, February 18, 2007


When I was ten my parents bought a house overlooking a cricket ground. Actually, I'd guess that the driving force behind the actual location was Dad - my Mum was probably more attracted to the proximity of Bromley High Street than the idea of a cricket ground at the end of the garden.

The ground in question was, and still is, the home ground of Bromley Cricket Club in Kent. At the time Bromley weren't quite the force in Kent cricket then that they are now - too clique ridden and very elitist, but the standard of cricket was still pretty good, and it was a fantastic place to grow up.

Every now and again I'd flick through the latest Wisden and wonder how clubs like Bromley would fare against the Lancashire and Yorkshire League teams listed within its sacred yellow covers. I'd also wonder why other leagues weren't listed. In the publication, although in retrospect maybe it had something to do lack of available space caused by the huge section devoted to Public School cricket...

Although any moves to set up a national league at the expense of existing local league structures would be misguided and far-fetched in the extreme, there’s still a good argument for some sort of national club structure to enable tournaments to have some sort of national recognition. There have been two moves in the right direction with the setting up of the ‘Premiership’ system in most counties, rather than a series of competing leagues, and the launch of the ECB Cockspur Cup

Of course, there's long been the evocative village tournament with the annual day out a Lords for the stereotypical blacksmith, vicar, bank manager and local squire – stereotypes immortalised in Hugh de Selincourt’s wonderful ‘Village Cricket Match’ from the 1920's.

Now, there's a company who are aiming to take things a step further - their 'hook', to use a Marketing term, is 20/20.

David at Harrowdrive brought this to my attention with this excellent post and there are full details of the competition on the North Gear 2020 site.

With some luck, positive thinking and decent weather, it could work.

The big selling point is the 20/20 aspect. Obviously the usual ‘rentaquote’ traditionalists will balk at the coloured clothing aspect of the venture – but these are the sort of people who are happy to wear garish egg and tomato ties, and can be seen out in the open air wearing plum coloured jackets and lime green trousers – so we’ll take no lessons from them on haute couture.

Outside Yorkshire & Lancashire attendances at most club cricket matches are derisory, but by reducing the timescale to three hours, and presumably playing some games midweek, they could be attracting a totally different demographic to those who are currently prepared to spend a whole weekend afternoon watching – in the same way that the county version of 20/20 has appealed to a whole new audience. If Dad has to amuse the kids for an afternoon it’s normally the local playground, the pictures or MacDonald’s – maybe at a stretch a pub car park with a lemonade and a packet of cheese and onion crisps. If the 20/20 alternative offers sporting entertainment, plus the chance of a cheap beer, he might now have a viable alternative choice.

Mix in some local radio ads, posters in local shop windows and local schools, (“Come and watch some pyjama cricket”) leaflet drops, newspaper articles and all the other paraphernalia of a typical high profile marketing campaign, and you have the basis of a potentially effective strategy to encourage people to at least give it a try. A huge number have seen a version on television, so many a likely to be interested in a local variant - in League of Gentleman terms – a local cricket team for local 20/20 fans.

By definition the cricket is going to be entertaining. Clubs should make sure that they have a decent PA system – and run some competitions for the kids in the interval. Rather than the ubiquitous ice cream van, why not get some club members to run a BBQ and stock up on ice creams and sweets from the local cash and carry. Obviously make sure the bar is open to non-members for the day and you’ve covered most of your costs there and then.

A lot of top level club sides these days have got at least one county player on their books – so there you have another hook to attract the sort of cricket fan who might have actually heard of these players and be interested in seeing them on a local stage. Bromley may be a bad example, because the ‘elitism’ I referred to earlier has transformed into ‘very deep pockets’ to the extent that their 2006 squad included Alan Wells, Nadeem Shahid, Joey Benjamin and Joe Dawes (NSW) and it was only a few years ago that Anderson Cummings was opening the bowling for them. Elsewhere in Kent, Martin McCague, Steve Marsh and Dean Headley still strut their stuff. Not exactly names to set the blood racing, but certainly recognisable, the confirmation that the product on offer is of a very high quality.

Also, when you’re considering the quality of the product, remember that there are still a heck of a lot of players at the club level who are good enough to play cricket full time, but have taken the conscious decision not to play county cricket because they can earn more money, and have greater financial security outside the game.

It’s also worth thinking about corporate hospitality. Rent a small marquee, tie up a deal with the local curry house for a decent quality takeaway – charge £25 per head, throw in the first bottle of wine on each table for free and then mark up the rest. Granted it’s not exactly a day out in an executive box at Lords, and the small budget scale would make the big city companies piss themselves laughing, but if the local solicitor wants to take a client out to thank him for some business referred, or the head of the local chamber of commerce wants to take a table to entertain a few friends and business contacts, why not at something like this?

Logistically, keeping it regional in the early rounds makes sense – with the promise of a national final live on Sky – even if that does mean Bob Willis making sarcastic comments about ‘minnows’ throughout his stints at the microphone. It’s a shame that the final isn’t until 30th September, but this is obviously an event that is going to have to establish itself in the public mind before being able to claim a more prominent date.

Here at The Peoples republic of TRSM, we give this venture a warm welcome and wish it all the best, and if there’s a spare beer and curry going begging, we’re always happy to help out!

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