The 628 - In defence of county cricket
15 Dec 2009 - 09:59:47
Short of ideas on what to scribble next, 628 asked its editor for advice. "Can you find a Kolpak to interview?" Er I know one but he's back home in South Africa.
"What about county cricket...if the Ashes are re-listed, the Sky money for England matches - which subsidises county cricket - will vanish and the county game will have to reform or die." Yes I could make a case for county cricket and the Ashes remaining with Sky.
628 thought it would try to defend the impossible then. These are just a few of the words and phrases some scanty research county cricket threw up - bloated, not fit for purpose, asthmatic, unwanted, unloved, anachronistic, pointless, unwatched, Victorian, folly and mediocre.
This issue excites like the common agricultural policy. There is outrage that England's 18 counties, England's 18 centres of excellence, produce 11 good players and sell the media rights of this XI to the highest bidder.
But what really appals the anti-county cricket commentariat is what the 18 counties do with the revenue. They take the cash and then brazenly reinvest in themselves to produce more England players.
As a business model, the great brains, the Mba men, the management consultancy wizards, have long decried this model.
They ache to take a Mckinsey scalpel to the outdated structure that is county cricket. No longer must England's 11 best players be allowed to skip county cricket and play international cricket around the world to support the system that produced them.
Yes, this a very modern form of slavery. And the numbers back it up.
England made £100 million in revenue in 2008. £50 million was profit. £38 million went towards supporting the counties - 628 has no idea if that £38 million came from profits and doesn't care.
The counties generated £30 million in revenue, but suffered losses of £35 million. The England team cost £17 million to run and £12 million went to the grass roots.
At present the ECB is paid £65 million a year by Sky. 628 also has no idea if that £65 million was part of England's £100 million revenue and cares equally less.
If these figures haven't put you to sleep, this argument often put forward by county cricket haters will - For England to produce an even better team, it must ape the Australian model but that won't happen until the Ashes are taken from the Sky stable; only then will this revenue killer force to counties reduce in number.
Leaner, meaner, less cricket, better cricket and England will unbeatable.
There's a very annoying assertion in the reform county cricket camp. It presumes that less is more because the Australians have fewer professional teams, play less first class cricket and have stuffed England for years.
Australia has a small population and fewer resources to support a larger professional game. Whereas England's wealthy enough for some amateur league clubs to pay in one summer what a young Aussie state player earns in a year.
Less isn't always more is it? Fewer county teams do not guarantee excellence itself. It is not automatic that fewer professional contracts will produce better cricketers.
If that sounds absurd ask yourself why New Zealand are not always the best in the world. 628 went to see David East, (video on front page) the chief executive for a more articulate view on the merits of county cricket. East knew his brief and made a strong but simple case. "Why would you reduce the points of access for your product?" he said.
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