An Open Letter to the ECB
Who exactly do the ECB and Counties consider as the ‘target market’? I ask the question because I’d consider myself as the perfect ‘target’ and yet I feel disenfranchised and irrelevant to cricket administrators. Cricket is a huge part of my life and has been for fifty years. I played for 25 years including in the Birmingham League. I’ve been going to New Road since 1977. My daughter played age-group County for four years which meant running her around to training sessions during the winter and all over the place for matches during summer. I have three sons who all play the game too and I regularly go to internationals with my eldest. I coach and manage my club’s U9s and u10s. I’m active on social media discussing and sharing all things cricket with a lot of people who support other counties and England. You’d think that the ECB might see me as someone who has some value to the game.
There are hundreds of thousands of people like me who should matter to the ECB, we’re the ones who want to attend games and put money into our counties’ coffers, and yet it seems increasingly impossible to be part of our county season – mostly because the ECB are doing everything possible to alienate people like me. We’re also the same people who subscribe to Sky who in return invest so heavily in the ECB.
However, some of us still have to work and have families but it shouldn’t have to be this hard to watch cricket regularly.
- 2019 Fixtures. At Worcester we’ve drawn the short end of the straw with our total number of weekend fixtures consisting of x1 Championship day, x2 50 overs and x4 T20. Seven days of cricket from 24 weekends due to seven Championship games starting on a Monday or Tuesday and two 50 overs on a Wednesday. There are no weekend games during June and September.
- At least there’s a 50 over game on a Bank Holiday this year whereas there were none in 2018 but that’s still a poor effort.
- Schedules chop and change every year making it impossible to predict when matches are, unlike other sports where the public know when matches are on, subject to TV scheduling.
- Championship games are not given the priority they should be, pushed to the margins of the season.
- Membership costs continue to rise as access to games dwindles meaning that supporters are being taken for granted.
- Worcester (and other county) supporters couldn’t get tickets for the T20 Finals unless they were prepared to resort to inflated prices from ticket tout sites. The ECB can’t even be bothered to make the Finals accessible to supporters.
- The proposed 100 will cause further disruption to the county schedule and worse still, take county players which will devalue what’s left of the county structure and will challenge members’ and supporters’ willingness to fork out for a poorer county schedule. Not to mention sponsors who’ll see their investment in counties further eroded. And all for a supposed audience that no-one seems to be aware of other than the ECB.
You may have set your stall out on the 100 but it’s ridiculous to abandon traditional supporters (i.e. people who enjoy the game) in this way and treat them with such contempt; you’ve taken your eye off the ball. At least we, as a ‘market’ actually exist so it’s probably not wise to burn your bridges in a Ratneresque type of way.
So how exactly do I see my 2019 season panning out? I’ll still be putting whatever time I can into my U9 and U10 squads and I’ll try to get to one or two internationals. Attending matches at New Road will be very difficult so as there’s very little opportunity to take the boys it looks as though golf and tennis will take priority in 2019. At least this is something we can do together to fill in the numerous gaps in the cricket season. Cricket loses, other sports win: multiply that by many thousands of people and you have a serious problem.
2020 will be as bad or worse than 2019 so it’s depressing to think that you choose to continue down a road which ignores what the average cricket supporter wants. For all the talk of developing various schemes to get people to play and watch cricket you seem to be oblivious to the damage that you’re doing. You don’t need focus groups to find out who the target market is – it’s people like me you should be listening to. We’ve put a lot of time and money into cricket over the years but we’re being ignored and forced out of the game.
I’m writing this an Open Letter in the hope that it’ll inspire others to write in too to express their concerns at the way the sport is being run and hopefully precipitate a change in leadership which is long overdue.