Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Celebrate the Day

359 years ago today.

Any good negotiator will tell you about the importance of precedent...!!

Wide Open Spaces

In the past month, I've had e-mails from Kent, Middlesex, Surrey, Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire encouraging me to become a county member. The only association I've ever had with these five counties, apart from attending their respective home grounds, is that at some time or another I've bought international tickets online through their websites, so obviously someone from an e-marketing consultancy has done a presentation to all the first class counties on the benefits of using your e-mail database effectively. Thus my inbox is currently reaping the reward.

Leaving aside discounts in the club shop, and the chance to rub shoulders with the players at social events, it seems to me that the three main advantages of county membership are that you can get free entry whenever you want (once you've paid your membership), a decent pint of beer with the fossils in the pavilion, and early access to Test Match tickets.

The downside, however, is that it's quite pricey (Basic Oval membership for 2008, for example, is £150) and therefore difficult to justify, especially if you do a standard Monday to Friday job and have a child or two to demand your time and attention over a weekend, and/or you play club cricket yourself.

Counties need to start getting a bit imaginative about membership - start thinking outside the box. At a high level, they need to start breaking down some of the preconceptions that have surrounded the whole structure of membership for the past hundred years or so. There needs to be a recognition that in the modern age - as opposed to the Victorian era which was when the idea of membership was created, there are a multitude of other calls on peoples time, but that there are still thousands of people who would describe themselves as 'supporters' of their counties.

The watchword needs to be 'flexibility'.

For starters, counties should look to set up a more flexible membership system - so that buying membership no longer needs to be an 'individual' decision, but can also be a group one. They should offer a facility where a group of people, say up to six, can buy a combined membership for the same price as a full individual one.

As I've said, I can't justify spending £150 on a full membership. At current prices I'd have to get to The Oval at least fifteen times, which really isn't viable - not without divorce lawyers getting involved! Realistically, I might only be able to get to The Oval three or four times a summer. (Please note that I'm using The Oval as an example as it's local to home and office - don't start thinking that I actually support Surrey for heavens sake!)

However, I can certainly see myself paying a quarter or a sixth of £150, and therefore give myself an incentive to try and get there more often. I'm sure there are five other people at my cricket club, or in my office, who'd be up for that sort of deal. Membership could be provided as a block of vouchers, so that any of us could take vouchers from the pot whenever we could - or a group of us get together for the occasional afternoon out if it's a nice day assuming we can all bunk off work! If, over the course of the summer, we don't use all the vouchers, then the county ostensibly profits - only they don't really, because they miss out on the associated money we'd spend when we're actually inside the Hobbs Gates.

Trust me, at The Oval, in common with every county ground, you aren't going to have any trouble getting a seat, or a block of fifty for that matter. Even at local derbies (Surrey v Kent for example) when visiting members can use the pavilion, the members area is barely half full and the outfield stands as a deserted as a Boris Johnson Appreciation Society meeting in Brixton. In fact, does anyone happen to know the last time a county match was sold out?

As an added incentive, they should give such 'voucher members' the opportunity to buy test tickets. One ticket per person would be the best bet. It doesn't sound much, but when you consider that full members can buy up to six tickets for each day of the test, and through judicious re-sale cover the cost of their membership, it puts it in perspective - and provies that extra incentive to join up.

Why not take it a step further, and offer a similar system for non-members - those who don't want, or can't afford, to use the pavilion facilities. Charge someone £50 for a book of ten 'ground entry' vouchers. If they use all ten they've saved £30 on standard entry cost to a county game - but at the same time they've entered the ground ten times, which is ten opportunities for counties to make more money on sales of food, drink and other paraphenalia.

Or even take out the 'voucher' aspect and simply charge £70 for associate member status, unlimited entry, so they can pop along to the ground as often as they want. At football clubs these are called 'season tickets' - a few counties (Glamorgan for example) already do this, but it beggars belief that all of them haven't introduced such a scheme. Like I say, you're never going to have the problem of 'over-demand' on seats - on most county matchdays you need to walk twenty yards to ask someone for a light.

Surrey do market a 'season ticket', but it's more of a debenture scheme tied up with test match tickets and costs over £1600 - which isn't quite the same thing!

Let these 'associate members' or 'season ticket holders', also have the right to buy international tickets - again, just one each, but giving them another incentive for joining, and counties to get more money in the bank.

The bottom line in all of this is money for the counties. But, leaving Mammon out of the argument for a moment, what it's also doing is encouraging more people to postively and actively associate themselves with the club. It's more people who will be describing themselves as a 'Member' or 'Season Ticket holder', and therefore actively marketing the club to their mates in the pub, friends and family. Unpaid advocates, if you will.

It's also more names on the 'supporter' database for the marketing departments to utilise - more recipients for the 'house magazine' packed with advertising, and more e-mails to people like me!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cruising for a Bruising

Gas Bored

This report in today's Grauniad about planned developments at The Oval is rather alarming.

In particular this bit: -

An HSE spokesman said: "The development would increase the population close to the gas holder and increase the sources of ignition and the number of people at risk. Where we can we like to see free space around gas holders. We are against the development as proposed."
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have got a bit of a bad reputation as 'interfering busybodies' - mainly because employers and their friends in the Tory Party have continually whined about 'Health 'n' Safety' (making that irritating 'inverted commas' movement with two fingers on either hand) and the amount of 'Red tape' they have to deal with. 'Red Tape' for the HSE will often equate to things like having to check for asbestos in the workplace, and that there are adequate fire escape procedures in place...

However, a recent TUC report suggested that places of work that have recently had an HSE inspection, and where all recommendations have been carried out are 75% less likely to have an employee harmed in the workplace whilst going about their day to day work. The number of builders killed or harmed on sites around the country is scandalous, as is the number harmed through breathing poisonous fumes. One person's 'irritating red tape' is anothers 'life threatening lung disease'.

((Climbs down from soapbox))

So, if the HSE say that they aren't happy with the design of the proposed development, shouldn't the planners and Lambeth Council take their comments into account - rather than going to a third party? Also, why weren't the HSE consulted when the OCS Stand was approved?

We're talking about the potential for a Buncefield style gas explosion here. (That's the comparison Construction News made) It would seem that the current risk level is acceptable, but putting 5000 people in such close proximity to the gasometers, may well be going a step too far.

I for one, will start thinking about sitting in the Stuart Surridge Stand rather than the Peter May from now on!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Everybody needs good Neighbours

For years, two guys have lived close to each other in North London. For a long time, both of them were happy, successful at work, regular purchasers of new cars, a steady stream of attractive girlfriends, living in impressive, but sensible sized houses in the same street.

Then suddenly, one of the blokes became far more successful than the other. Better quality girlfriends, more success at work, and generally starting to look down his nose at his less well off neighbour. The crunch came when he got a very competitive loan from a Middle Eastern Bank and was able to buy himself one of the best looking houses in the area, whilst the other guy got into debt, and was forced to merely make do and mend with what he had.

As the years went by it got worse and worse. For one of the men, massive welath and riches, regular trips to the capitals of Europe, for the other, a cut price existence with little reward. At one stage the well off guy even went to the stage of openly courting the other bloke's stunning girlfriend - and then finally snaring her in an emotionally charged evening at a local nightclub.

Finally after years of inferiority and put-downs, something snapped with the second bloke. He invited his neighbour round for dinner, and then proceeded to tie him up and humiliate him in the most graphic ways imaginable - filming the whole event so he could show it to his friends whenever he wanted. He also repeatedly violated his girlfriend, taking copious numbers of photogrpahs which he distributed to every media outlet he could think of.

That's what Spurs did to Arsenal last night.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Gone Hollywood

Thanks to Miss Field for this gem.

If you count his farewell at Sydney in 2003, that's twice on the trot Steve Waugh has lost to England!

Monday, January 21, 2008

His Master's Voice

Following on from the post below - here's the antidote.

To my mind, this guy is the one of the funniest comedians ever.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Great Peanut Butter Conspiracy

Warning - non-cricket related post.

Do these people realise just how stupid the things they say are?

Watch, laugh, then consider that one of the front runners in the Republican race for the presidency subscribes to this sort of thing.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Miller's Tale

So what do we know about new Chief Selector, Geoff Miller?

1. He refers to himself in the third person

(The Reverse Swing Manifesto says this is very naff...)

2. He was a handy bits and pieces all rounder in the 70's, holding a place in the England side even though neither his batting or bowling were remotely test class.

3. He had a classic 'porn 'stache'

4. 'Without a shadow of a doubt' he feels that the same person should skipper the Test and ODI side.

Interesting times ahead.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Quick One

Remember this from July last year?

In the last paragraph I asked, rather rhetorically I thought, what would happen if he tried it in a Test rather than a meaningless 20/20 game.

Well, now we know.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Absolute Beginners

This was the first county game I ever saw, and therefore my introduction to first class cricket. I saw Rohan Kanhai make a hundred on the second day- I reckon there are plenty of worse ways to start your 'career'.

Looking through those two line-ups note that, even though England were playing a test against Australia at the time with Luckhurst, Knott and Underwood on duty, there were still fourteen past, present or future internationals on display.

By the looks of things, it seems like quite a good game. Presumably Warwickshire whittled Kent out on the third day leaving themselves just long enough to get the runs. I'd guess that at 65-4, Kent must have fancied their chances of a surprise win against the head, but the unlikely pairing of Amiss and Murray saw Warwickshire home.

Note the location - Hesketh Park, Dartford. At that time counties had enough first class games in their fixture list to ensure that the game was on display right around the county - rather than the one or two locations you see now. So, in that summer, Kent had home games at Maidstone, Folkstone, Dover, Dartford, Tunbridge Wells and Canterbury. These days it's only the last two that get to host county games.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hard but Fair

"Sir, Sir, please Sir, that f*****g c********r Harbhajan has just called Andrew Symonds a monkey Sir. Tell him off Sir, please Sir..."

For once, Aggers is spot on.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Ain't Missing You At All

Lost in all the ongoing uproar over what Harbie said to Andrew, is quite how Australia managed to bowl out a pretty decent Indian side in two sessions on a pitch that was far from the fifth day beast you often get at the SCG.

One question often posed after Shane Warne retired was 'who would the Aussies have to bowl sides out in the fourth innings?' - the suggestion being that the Baggy Green would henceforth merely draw, or even lose, tests they had previous won (Adelaide 2006 for example or any number of other examples over the past decade)

Well, the answer to both questions seems to be 'two part-time spin bowlers with less than thirty test wickets between them.' A Scouser, and a Brummie no less!

Too Much Monkey Business

I'm not quite sure what all the fuss is about - in my part of South East London a 'monkey' is 500 quid.

Maybe Harbajan was making a comment on the amount Symonds seemingly spends in a month on his hair, or maybe it was a thinly veiled reference to an offer he'd had from an Indian bookie.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Upstairs Downstairs

So Andrew Strauss has opted to stay in the selectors eyeline by playing for Northern Districts whilst the England team are in New Zealand.

Apart from wondering whether Mark Ramprakash is going to follow suit and appear in the NZTV version of 'Celebrities Poncing around in Leotards', my first thought was to consider how Strauss's decision had gone down at home...

SCENE - The Strauss bedroom. Andrew Strauss (played by David Cameron) is fiddling with something on the four poster bed. In the background a servant (played by Edward Fox) glides noiselessly around packing clothes into a large suitcase. A maid (played by Cathy Burke) is on her knees cleaning out the fire place.

AS - "Don't forget to pack my dinner jacket will you Brearley, and Miss Graveney, will you see that my spats are clean?"

ENTER - Mrs Strauss (played by Miranda Richardson as Queen Elizabeth in Blackadder)

MRS S - "What are you doing Andy Pandy?"

AS - (Turning round suddenly) "Erm, I'm just oiling my bat Bunnykins''

MRS S - "That's a strange euphamism - oh, so you are! Why's that? In September you definately said that 'since that snotty little oik Peter Moores has left me out of the squad I'm not going to play again until April so yah boo sucks to him!' Had you forgotten?"

AS - ''I know I did Bunnykins, but things have moved on - I'm going to go and play abroad for a bit''

MRS S - ''Oh, Andy Pandy, you promised. It's ages since we had some time on our own, and there's so much that needs doing around the house - the servants wing needs a new roof and the stable block hasn't been painted for years.''

AS - ''But Honey Bunny - it's abroad!''

MRS S - ''Oh, well, that's true I suppose. Whereabouts Andy Pandy? Cape Town? The nightclubs there are fantastic... or Antigua, I love the beaches there.. or even Sydney - I know you said it's full of uncouth, foul mouthed, smelly sorts, but I've heard the shopping's really good.''

AS - (Nervously) ''Erm, Northern Districts''

MRS S - ''Oh, you mean Finchley? Highgate?''

AS - ''No, Northern Districts in New Zealand, Sweetums.''

(EXIT Mrs Strauss, screaming)

AS - (Turning to the Servant) - ''Finish the packing would you please Brearley - and when you've done that, could you start painting the stable block.''

Act Naturally

Couldn't less this go without comment.

This line from Saj is worthy of note: -

"I just play myself and bowl - that can't be too difficult."

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

This is Joe Public Speaking

Some of the best sports writing in the blogosphere - bookmark it now.

Canberra Carrot

It's obviously a hard life being an Aussie cricket fan - when the only thing you seemingly have to worry about is whether you're going to extend a winning streak to a record seventeen tests. Of course it helps if Steve Bucknor has a mid-afternoon doze and misses a blatant caught behind...

Anyway, they manage to cope with the stress pretty well - here's the quote of the year, so far, from Tony at AGB: -

'The dilemma of how to deal with a streak is best described by that noted cricket pundit, Danny the Psycho, in Withnail & I: "If you're hanging on to a rising balloon, you're presented with a difficult decision: let go before it's too late, or hold on and keep getting higher. Posing the question, how long can you keep a grip on the rope?" '

Read the whole piece here.