Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Money Matters

In the coming weeks, there'll doubtless be a series of post-mortems and long analytical articles over England's abject performances this winter, culminating in the Schofield Committee report, which could make interesting reading.

One issue that's getting a well-deserved re-airing is the suggestion in some quarters that the county structure should be radically overhauled, with a drastic reduction in the number of counties playing cricket at the highest level. Current figures being quoted suggest that 10 counties should be the optimum number.

At the forefront of this campaign is the Cricket Reform Group - the two leading lights of this group are the unlikely pairing of Mike Atherton & Bob Willis.

Regular visitors to this site may be shocked to find out that the TRSM Brains Trust actually agree with Bob Willis on this one - there's far to much dead wood in the county structure which lives by a code of self-interest and prevents a meaningful competition where class can be proven and dross gets found out.

Defenders of the status quo, normally county chairmen who have a vested interest in maintaining their own private fiefdoms and comfortable existence, say that the existing structure is important to the future of the game, and that the counties do invaluable work in terms of finding new talent and coaching it to fruition.

Ok - let's take a closer look at that.

Each year the ECB pay a 'fee' (more accurately a subsidy) to each first class county. In 2005, which is the last figure I can find, the subsidy was £1.47 million per county. This fee keeps at least ten of the counties afloat - without it they would most likely go under.

For example, Glamorgan's total income in 2006 was £2.87 million, their outgoings were £2.90 million - a deficit, yes, but imagine how big a defict that would have been without the ECB handout, which accounted for over 50% of the total Glamorgan income.

With me so far? Ok, let's go a step further...

In their 2005 Report, the ECB justified the hand outs to counties thus: -

"In recognition of the costs they incur in participation in ECB competitions, the counties are effectively 18 Centres of Excellence and the fees paid to them underpin the Boards objective of ensuring a vibrant domestic game"

Going back to the justification that chairmen use for the continuation of the 18 county structure, you'd expect each county to have a big outlay on coaching wouldn't you? After all, coaching talent is the one thing you'd expect a Centre of Excellence to be able to do pretty well - especially with all those first class cricketers wandering around.

Err - well, maybe not.

Back to the Glamorgan figures: - Total expenditure on Coaching in 2006... £138653 pounds. That's less than FIVE PERCENT of the total income. But wait - it gets worse... under 'Income' they also list £121,000 from Coaching fees - so the net outlay on coaching in a supposed 'Centre of Excellence' (ECB words not mine) is less than £15,000.

In fact, Glamorgan spent almost three times as much on 'Catering and Hospitality' (£372,686) than they did on coaching. (I'm not deliberately picking on Glamorgan - their figures happen to be readily accessible on the internet. I'll dig out some other examples and post them here when I get the chance.)

Remember this sense of priorities when the counties start bleating about how important they are.


Anonymous said...


I've heard English fans moan about having too many counties since 1989, and it's all Bollocks with a capital B.

Let's do some more maths- Australia has 20 million folks and England has around 60 million. 3 times as many. So it makes sense for England to have 3 times as many first class teams.

It's all about the atmosphere of competition in which county cricket is played in. No one watches first class cricket in Australia either, and the finances of the State cricket Associations are totally dependent on the national team doing well. But no one complains about the money because we know the root cause of Australian cricket dominance is the ferocious competitive spirit which Australian domestic cricket is played in.

This even goes down the line to club and junior levels.

The reason why you and many other English bitch and moan about the amount of money you are shelling out to the counties is because you are not getting value for your £ not because it's wrong to spend it.

David said...

Scott, Isn't that a bit of a simplistic view by simply multiplying the number of first class teams in proportion to the population. What is the general population's interest in the game - does it take into account that cricket is viewed very differently in Australia to the UK?

What I mean is, that more people per capita (and therefore more potential or future players) who have a genuine interest in cricket in Australia than in England - Cricket is the closest thing to a national sport that Australia has, whereas the argument would be that Football definitely holds that crown in the UK.

With this in mind, wouldn't a first class competition of 10 teams make for a healthier game in England from an international competition point of view?

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I've never been in England so I couldn't really say. But given what I saw of the way English people came out of the woodwork to support the national side in 2005, I think the latent interest is there.

A first class competition of ten teams? That might be about right (twelve would probably be better) if you were starting from scratch, but the problem in England is that you're not.

No sensible turkey votes for Christmas.

David Hinchliffe - Cricket Fitness, Coaching and Tips said...

My feeling is that we need a couple of changes to raise standards at all levels along these lines:

First, a better joining of club and county cricket. Clubs need to raise standards toi make this happen but I see counties adopting local clubs on a more formal basis. Currently the amateur and professional games are virtually different sports. We need a clear progression path.

Second, Increase the intensity of professional cricket through less games with more to play for. This could be a reduction in counties or possibly a whole new representitive tier of 4-6 sides of international hopefuls playing a few intense games every summer. To allow this the ECB would need to extends the central contract system and cut county funding, forcing the counties to look more to semi-pro and club cricket for resources.

Third, Kill the most pointless Pro40 league making the One day cup longer and more world cup like in structure.

Fourth, no overseas players. Most OS players do the job on the pitch but they are doing nothing to help produce international players.

Finally, is the county championship the best format to prepare Test cricketers?

Mark said...

All fair comments David. My thoughts are: -

1. There have already been moves to strengthening the structure below county level - In Kent, the Kent League is seen as the tier below the county set up, and most county players have links with one of the club sides. Same goes for Surrey - not sure about elsewhere.

2. Hopefully a smaller championship would do this. You would also hope to create a secondary county tier below the 'Premier' league, made up of existing minor counties and other counties like Derbyshire and Leicestershire who would drop down and go 'semi-pro'.

3. Agree 150%!! It's lunacy that we don't have a domestic competition that mirrors ODI format.

4. I think the CC should be seen as part of the format, but not the be all and end all.

David Hinchliffe - Cricket Fitness, Coaching and Tips said...

Things are certainly getting better in the club/county link i agree. There is still some way to go though.

As for the County Championship, I love the competition and at it's best it is one of the stronger first class competitions. It still produces far too much tactical or even farcical cricket in the search for points. More intensity is needed. Perhaps less cricket of greater quality is the overall answer.

Quality vs. quantity.

Mark said...

You also need to try and find a way of involving the England test team.

After all, if 'Northern Region' were playing 'South Coast' you'd have the possibility of Harmison, Flintoff and Plunkett bowling at Kevin Pietersen.
Allow the odd overseas player, and Shane Warne would then be bowling at Vaughan, Flintoff and Collingwood.

When Midlands (South) met South West, Monty would be trying his luck against Trescothick... and so on.