Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Court of King Allen

With the droit de seigneur images of players WAGs sitting on his lap being beamed onto the big screens during play, Mr Stanford's Circus has now officially descended to the level of 'grubby'.

When the guy first appeared on the scene, I was one of many who was prepared to give him airtime because he was pumping a lot of money into West Indies cricket, and we all have a soft spot for the West Indies - pretty much everyone's 'second favorite team'.

Admittedly his altruism came with strings attached, but it was possible to argue that the money at least heading in roughly the right direction, and that an injection on 20/20 razzmatazz would at least invigorate some of the grassroots in the Caribbean.

In retrospect you can argue ECB jumped into bed with him far to easily - overly keen to get someone with his wealth on their side, acting as a potential bulkward against the increasingly mighty Indian Cricket Board. Also, if someone lands their helicopter on the outfield and wanders into the Long Room with a box containing 20 million, you're going to sit up and take notice.

The fact he was an American billionaire with a somewhat shady history of financial irregularity, and, like many rich people, he has a particular aversion to paying his fair share of tax, was rather worrying - but we took into account that rich Americans have always had a streak of philanthropy coursing through their veins - if only to divert attention away from some of their less salubrious activities like fraud and union busting.

Then again, I doubt whether Carnegie, Vanderbilt or even Bill Gates ever demanded a lap dance from anyone as a price for their financial generosity.

STOP PRESS - Seems like the ECB might be having second thoughts.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Back in White

The good folks over at Holding Willey have been having some fun with an imaginary time machine... (as opposed to a real one? - Ed.)

Question was which three cricketers from history would you like to see playing in the present day?

I went for Bradman, Tich Freeman and Learie Constantine. See what others said here.

Reminds me of the old story about Bradman being interviewed on TV about ten years before he died. The interviewer asked him how he thought he'd fare in the modern era. Bradman considered for a minute and then suggested that he might just about average 50 with the bat. The commentator expressed some surprise at this admission, and wondered if this was because of the quality of the bowling. Bradman then pointed out that he was eighty years old.

Welcome to my Nightmare

I don't think any English cricket fan will really rest easy until Warnie is safely dead and buried in his grave - not that I want that to happen for some time yet because the guy speaks far too much cricketing sense for him to leave us quite yet.

Oddly, some Australians don't see it that way.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tunnel Vision

One of the big selling points of a 20/20 match is that it doesn't last very long. This means that can all be done and dusted in under three hours - games can start early evening after work/school, and kids with limited attention span can enjoy the experience. The truncated version of the game also suits the TV scheduling.

Oddly the organisers of next summer's 20/20 World Cup seem to have overlooked this - or deliberately disregarded it.

The result is that the whole basis of the event is a series of 'double-headers' - two games in one day on the same ground. As all tickets have been sold on this basis, you have to assume that there are no plans to do what they sometimes do in the US and clear the ground and then fill it up again later in the day - so everyone gets two games on one ticket.

Now on the face if it that makes £50 quid for the day a bit of a bargain. But it means that you've automatically reduced the total number of people who can watch one of the games by a half - and in a country where cricket is very much a minority TV sport, that's a bad oversight.

The problem was created for the organisers as soon as they were told that the whole tournament had to fit into a fortnight (good idea) and that to reduce travel times all the games would take place on only three grounds (appalling idea) Anyone living in striking distance of London and Nottingham is laughing - assuming they were lucky in the ticket lottery. The other eighty percent of the country will have to make do with Sky coverage - assuming they've got a dish, and can bunk off of work and school to watch the daytime games.

With a bit of thought and planning the authorities could have actually boosted their income - even my shaky grasp on maths tells me that filling a ground twice for £30 a pop means more income than filling it once for £50. That would have also spread the message wider and created more goodwill amongst the cricketing public.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Mr Faust, please report to the TV studio"

To the average sports fan in the twenty first century, TV ads between overs or during other breaks in the action have become something of a necessary evil. There's an awareness that, on commercial channels, income has to be generated somewhere, and often they can be a blessed relief to spare us from some of the more inane commentary banter for a few seconds.

In the US they've long had the 'TV timeout' in all sports - a break in the action deliberately designed to maximise advertising revenue for the TV networks. These are perennially a pain in the rear end. Often a team will be on a roll - either advancing down the field in gridiron or on a big points run in basketball. The opposing coach is reluctant to use one of his limited number of timeouts at this stage, but then the TV light goes on, everyone in the arena sits around for a couple of minutes and all the excitement disappears like a balloon being let down. An NFL game officially lasts an hour, but often the time between kick off and the end of the game can be up to three hours. Likewise an NBA game involves 48 minutes of action, spread out over two hours twenty minutes.

We've managed to avoid this so far over here - probably because neither football or rugby lend themselves to a break in the action beyond the usual half time interval (though don't think FIFA aren't toying with the idea...) and cricket has enough natural breaks woven into the fabric of the game to satisfy even the most zealous TV marketing executive. What other sport has official breaks for lunch and tea for example?

But now consider the upcoming Stanford game.

Obviously the organisers will be aiming to recoup a lot of the prize money outlay through maximising advertising revenue. The pre-match build up programme is likely to last at least an hour, with probably a third of that as advertising time. The mid innings break will provide more advertising opportunity and studio analysts are likely to get about thirty seconds to share their pearls of wisdom on the action we've just seen.

They won't go to quite the extent that Spanish TV football coverage does where literally the whole half time break less about a minute is normally taken up with ads- but it'll be close.

Out in the middle, I'd guess that the captains and officials will be 'encouraged' to slow things down between overs to fit in more ads, and I doubt whether anyone will be fined for a slothful overrate. What's the betting that a couple of fully fledged drinks breaks are introduced, totally interrupting the flow and immediacy of the game.

This makes you think that the whole spectacle could be dragged out to around five hours - and further makes you wonder why Stanford and his entourage don't simply make it a 50 overs a side match, or stretch it over five days and call it a 'Test Match'.