Q&A on the ECB's proposed new Twenty20 tournament

28 March 2017 12:08

English cricket's new city-based Twenty20 tournament is set to move a giant stride closer with agreement at Lord's on Tuesday to dispatch a postal vote, for the necessary constitutional change, to the 41 representatives of first-class counties, MCC and recreational boards.

Here, we look at the important questions about the new tournament.

Done deal? Is the ECB's new tournament now inevitable?

Almost certainly. ECB chief executive Tom Harrison insists there are no longer any significant doubts harboured by the counties. It is a moot point whether the £1.3million-a-year 'pay-off' share of projected tournament revenue has played a major role in changing minds, but Monday's confirmation that all 18 clubs have signed "media rights deeds" to allow the governing body to include the new Twenty20 in its upcoming broadcast portfolio appears to have kickstarted a chain of events which can only conclude with a rubber-stamping of plans by this mid-summer at the latest.

Why is it needed?

Harrison speaks of "creating something dramatically different. to attract a thriving new audience". The Indian Premier League and Australia's Big Bash have demonstrated the template of what could be possible - albeit in a vastly different landscape, hemisphere or at least continent. English cricket 'invented' Twenty20 cricket, but the consensus is that it has yet to cash in properly on the product which has exported so well elsewhere. Compelling statistics include revelations cited by the ECB that only two per cent of children nominate cricket in its current form as their favourite sport. Additionally, 75 per cent of children spend less than an hour outside every day - less than United Nations guidelines for prison inmates. ECB is hoping to attract a new 'non-captive' audience.

What can we expect in 2020 then?

An eight-team structure taking in 36 matches over 38 days in July and August, concurrent with the domestic 50-over competition and Test series. England's Test players will therefore not be directly involved, but will be assigned to appropriate teams for marketing purposes. Plans are fluid to an extent. But at present, it is envisaged squads of 15 players will include three each from overseas. There will be a draft of 13 players per team, in salary bands, with the remaining two places filled by those who excel in the NatWest Blast - which will precede the new tournament each summer. Each team will have four home matches, leading to an IPL-style play-off system, and it is hoped up to eight fixtures will be broadcast free-to-air.

Where does this leave the current Twenty20 tournament?

Second division at best, conference or possibly oblivion down the line. The existing competition - which has fared well in terms of crowds, broadcast audience and reputation of late - is obviously vulnerable to the ECB's new 'box office' product. Some counties too must trust and hope they are not about to vote for their own eventual extinction - although they can probably be rightly encouraged by the compromise guarantee that the constitutional change, to allow an eight-team tournament where previously all competitions had to include all first-class clubs, will be a one-off.

What will the new tournament be called?

No-one knows. Until broadcast negotiations take place later this year, that and other details will be under wraps.

Source: PA