All posts by StephenFH

Photos from the 1970s

In  2019 Brian Carpenter who writes a piece on cricket blogs for Wisden mentioned  this one, pointing the way to some photos I snapped in 1978.  Quite a number of them are on this site somewhere, or on twitter, but if you have come this way for a look, ‘a best of the bunch’ are collated here.

Many thanks go to Gary Sanford, a fellow sightscreen committee member from long ago, for his photo of the Dean Park pavilion above  and also to the ‘unknown developer’.  In the 1970s when rolls of film were sent off to be developed, it was not too difficult to imagine that some of those doing the processing also followed the game,  certainly in a couple of cases an enlargement returned was an improvement on the original.

Hove 19th June One of the iconic settings for county cricket then, and now, and happily still ‘a ground’.  Turn left out of Hove station on a Monday morning  and where better to start an extended cricket-watching holiday?

 

The Oval 16th July A Sunday League game: two ICC Greats, Barry Richards and Andy Roberts,  John Edrich, together with David Turner.  Umpire Tom Spencer, who three years earlier had officiated in the first World Cup,

Northlands Road, Southampton 5th August A relaxed-looking Geoffrey Boycott in front of a full pavilion,  hosting a good many tykes on tour. Photograph taken from 40-50 yards away, the awareness of its subject having prompted his response. 

Clarence Park, Weston 10th August A shaft of sun light giving a terrestrial-celestial aspect to the cricket; some of the  other snaps of Viv Richards taken that afternoon  show just what a colossus he was and a dominating presence in this one certainly.

Dean Park, Bournemouth  23rd August Dennis Amiss batting for Warwickshire, a pioneer user of helmets that summer when their use was ‘controversial’.  A man apart rather because of it, generations of cricketers since have had reason to be grateful to him.

Northlands Road,  27th August Gordon Greenidge playing against Kent in a SL game. The Hants Handbook for the year records his frustration with only making  51, a century in each innings followed when the Championship fixture resumed the following day.

Dean Park 3rd September Richard Gilliat with the JPL trophy. A happy ending for a batsman who walked, and who had reached the the end of his playing career that year.  Not everything about cricket celebrations in the 1970s was better then, but they did connect players with ‘ordinary’ supporters, and hopefully some in the picture still follow the game. For those who do QoS,  is the partly obscured figure behind ‘RMC’ a  recognisable one?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cricketscapes by Andrew Hignell

Andrew Hignell argues that in an urban world cricket in England should move from its county-based structure to a city-based one, that this change is long overdue, that the game needs to connect with the places  people identify with in 2020.  An intellectual justification for The 100, or a competition something like it, wasn’t particularly sought in buying this publication from the ACS but it wasn’t any less of a good read for that, so, how persuasive is he?

The first ‘proper’ County Championship is dated to 1895; contested by 14, eight of whom played at one ground. From this for much of the 20th century the game, its geography, expanded to the point that by 1963 the then 17  counties played 32 3-day  fixtures, most of them  staged  on outgrounds. One-day cricket changed some of the dots on the map, over the years the Sunday League greatly increased their number, and by the time this one blogger had snapped Sir Viv Richards playing at Weston in 1978,  the number of grounds used that summer was as it had been in 1963, 72 in all.  Overall an era for the game when its geographic reach gave justification for its county structure:  boundaries that accommodated civic rivalries, rival supporters from other sports.

Andrew Hignell then traces the geographic concentration of games in the decades since,  wickets prepared to ECB standards and facilities developed to accommodate business interests at county grounds, the importance of  gate revenues and member subs declining. A game heading upmarket.  The open question that this leaves is the extent to which county supporters now are folks living in the urban areas of those grounds. Are the crowds at T20 games locals,  or not,  just a more mobile generation than when the Sunday League came to their (grand)parents?

The argument in Cricketscapes drives this to a logical conclusion if it is, or you think it is, mainly the first, then name domestic cricket  accordingly, Canterbury v Taunton and so on. To the question what’s in a name Andrew Hignell suggests  rather a lot, and sitting above Brighton, Southampton and the others in his future are the eight city-based ECB teams with ‘names that can be seen on road signs plus an urban identity’: Welsh Fire, Birmingham Phoenix, Manchester Originals, Northern Superchargers, Trent Rockets, London Spirit, Oval Invincibles and Southern Brave.

This all struck this one reader as exchanging one set of compromises, county names, for another; teams in the The 100 with urban names are not a majority and as the author points out forcefully in another context in one the association for the non-cricket going public is very much that of a tube station.  As for how much names matter,  for those heading to the cricket for a social occasion a moot point; although not especially surprising was the comment from Surrey’s CEO  that a quarter of the early ticket sales for The 100 were at the Oval, bought by those from much the same demographic as T20 goers.

The 100 is seemingly set to mean a big increase in the amount of white ball cricket at eight grounds, from 50+ to around 90 games, or if counting those played ‘between the eight’ from 20+ to around 60.  Financially it’s risky, something that Cricketscapes seems to skirt around, suggesting rather that the game can ease its way into a brave new world, county rebrands or not. He is though surely right to point to the role of social media connecting folks to the game in its various forms, and may be the export market for The 100 will justify its existence, or turn it into a hit, and help fund domestic cricket.

But maybe not, the financial expansion of the game in the ECB era has  been a bumpy experience: Channel 4’s departure from covering England, they were losing money on it, lead to 14 years behind a paywall, the stresses of expanding TMGs from 6 to 9 also problematic; a game left with an ageing support base and experiencing over-supply problems.

So is The 100 going to be just more over-supply? Some differences of opinion about it may be partly down to different world views: in the decades since Viv Richards was playing on public parks, economically the pendulum has swung a long way from those at the bottom, in the middle towards those at the top and imo a push back would not be before time. But this is not really to doubt the risk those pushing with the pendulum in cricket are taking.

Cricketscapes, part of the Cricket Witness series from the ACS, is a glossy, which was not expected. It has 20+ (black and white) photos from the game’s past, of interest although social media has raised the standard  when it comes to cricket’s landscapes. What it gave this reader was a thoughtful, alternative point of view, something which can be hard to find on social media, and for that, credit to its author.

 

Test of Character by Andy Murtagh

Born in Superlative, blessed with stand out looks and given a moral compass, yet  Andy Murtagh’s warm-hearted biography of John Holder is also well-titled for a man who left Barbados for an English winter with no coat, just might have had his capacity to bowl fast coached out of him, and later, as Test Match umpire, declined a bribe and found that an attitude born out of straightforward honesty was an an attitude that didn’t fit.

John Holder has a first-class hat-trick to his name, took 13 wickets in a Championship match and stories from his playing days are fondly recalled by Andy Murtagh. The liking he feels towards his subject is very clear, although this part of the book also aches rather with the playing career that might have been.  As team-mate  Richard Lewis points out the key to bowling is the ability to repeat an action, from which rhythm and confidence, and while John Holder was seriously quick, attempts to rectify a problem with bowling no balls by changing his action from chest to side on proved problematic.

He left the Hants staff in 1972 without getting his county cap, but having been a presence in helping a young Gordon Greenidge mature, whose career at Southampton at one point survived by one vote. 15 years later with his playing career coming towards its end, John Holder was umpiring  him on the county circuit, his career as an official on the rise.  Promotion to Tests followed, England versus Sri Lanka in 1988  then Australia in 1989, a career that was going well until the end of the  series against the West Indies in 1991, the farewell of Viv Richards at The Oval. It turned out to be his last Test for a decade.

As to why, umpire Holder pointing out, reporting, ball tampering by England  unwelcome with an upcoming series against Pakistan is the context given. It is plausible enough as an explanation; reporting transgressions may, of course, have been unwelcome at other times as well, suggestive that  some of his colleagues  would simply have turned a blind eye as necessary.

And the experience of prejudice in his career? Episodes outside the game certainly,  also behind the decision-making that left him (very) disappointed after just doing his duty? Test of Character reasonably enough given the time horizon  does not try to probe the opaque processes of long ago, or the character, the mental suppleness, of those making the decisions, but it may have been a factor. Mistakes made with LB decisions in some games are given fair airing in the book, the explanation for him being dropped as a Test umpire seemingly not that, which leaves a man who was just ‘a bit too honest’.

More cheerfully there is fair recognition  that cricket gave black West Indians of his generation openings, three team-mates at Southampton at the start of the 1971 season, in an era when cricket was treated more as a game, and those involved felt that they were on to something that was a lot better than ‘real work’. A career in his case that lasted more than 40  years; an informed man about the laws of cricket, an educator, his ‘You Are the Umpire’ with Paul Trevillion, a success.  An attempt  to bribe him in Sharjah before an ODI fixture was recalled with something like disdain in interviews that have appeared on YouTube.

John Holder first appeared for Hants 2nds against Gloucester at Dean Park  in 1965, the scorecard a prompt about the large part luck plays in careers. Both Mike Procter and Barry Richards played for the visitors;  as did fellow umpire to be David Shepherd, ‘Shep’, remembered for hopping on to one leg when the score was 111, and for whom an MBE for services to cricket. And John Holder, for services to careers made with a good conscience? If presented with a re-run hopefully he would do it again.

The Sunday League

Darley Dale is a small commuter town just outside Matlock with a population of around 6,000, its cricket club dates back to the 1860s and plays today in  the Derbyshire County Cricket League Division 3  North. In the cricketing summer of 1975, remembered now as much as anything for the first World Cup, it  played host to a Sunday League match, the scorecard for which shows the home county with seven who played Test cricket and the visiting Hants side three of whom have since entered the ICC Hall of Fame. Unusually for the 70s there is a clip of film of the  game on YouTube.

The crowd was around 5,000, those of us who headed straight  into the Square and Compass pub afterwards fondly remember it, even if  Darley might  be seen now as a very small stage for such talented players, the world of cricket before Kerry Packer. Yet no question that the Sunday League did a more than decent job regenerating the game, fondly remembered because of it thanks to  the Beeb’s coverage and  to games played in places that kids could get  to. All told it  was played on 127 grounds.

The  Beeb’s cameras were at almost 50 of them:  in the first season at the Oval, Brian Johnston joining John Arlott and Jim Laker in the commentary box and the Oval, Landudno, where it was Richie Benaud. In the years that followed  games from other smaller places such as Lydney and Tring were broadcast, medium size conurbations such as  Bath and Maidstone and larger ones, Bradford and Portsmouth, among them.

Sundays being the way they were then cricket got a free run on the tv schedules until Sunday Grandstand came along in 1981, WCFs shared coverage with racing and tennis, the 40 over games not. There was a decade and more when FTA cricket was as much the domestic game as Test matches, although later squeezed and then mainly England  before Channel 4.

And the significance of all this for now?  The ECB has recently said the average age of a cricket supporter is 50, the game might have gone more commercial in the 21st century but it is still heavily dependent on those  who took to it in the era when it was FTA. Reducing the age difficult given how little the game is played in schools, and if the experience of the SL is anything to go by there probably needs to be a lot  of domestic cricket FTA for it to impact.

As for taking the game round the country, the Victorians with help from WG  managed it, the SL did something similar, so how good will those  in charge now turn out to be? In their high chatter this lockdown there has been some recognition that The 100 is not really all that much about attracting a new, younger, audience; a certain realism which seems  like one step in the right direction. Step two, play more games on outgrounds? Hopefully they will get onto that sooner rather than later.

 

Numbers compiled from Cricket Archive, the Radio Times listings  from the BBC’s Genome Project.

The Unforgiven by Ashley Gray

The 2013 film on the West Indian cricketers who toured apartheid -era South Africa, Branded a Rebel, has an interview with the then SACU president Joe Pamensky  in which he  remarks  the  tourists were ‘made an offer they couldn’t refuse’. Clive Lloyd is interviewed and mentions that he could have made himself a rich man, but put his principles first. The consequences for three players who went are brought into view: an unwell David Murray,  Collis King, from whom words of defiance and the independent-minded Franklyn Stephenson, who makes the argument that mercenaries are paid to fight other peoples’ wars, that what t(he)y did was to give white spectators at matches an education through cricket.

Ashley Gray’s impressive book The Unforgiven certainly adds a lot to what this one reader knew about this. He attempted to speak to all those who went- 19 players and in most cases he succeeded -and the book is all the more readable for the candour, the straight way in which the character portraits are drawn and weaved into context. It is no simple morality tale.

There are those who didn’t go but might have done, flight tickets were bought for Desmond Haynes and Malcolm Marshall. There is plenty of believable comment on the rivalries between those competing for a Test place: the importance of individual relationships with Clive Lloyd and Sir  Frank Walcott  in the whys some didn’t make the Test side, or didn’t think they were going to, and went. And the social pressures involved: in the case of Everton Mattis, talented, but without it seems the necessary  graces at the dinner table, given advice to get a haircut.

As for the Franklyn Stephenson take on things the strength of West Indian cricketers in England in the decades from the 70s on  certainly impacted a generation of predominantly white supporters of the game.  Black cricketers walked out to polite, at times reverential, applause, Cyrille Regis ran out to be greeted with bananas incoming playing for West Bromich Albion. So did the rebels have at least some influence on the small white minority in bringing change to South Africa or the management post apartheid?

Maybe they did, it’s a more plausible suggestion with the benefit of hindsight although it is also questionable how much moral force there is in it. The general feeling from reading The Unforgiven  is that for several of them given the decision again they wouldn’t have gone, almost 40 years later Lawrence Rowe forgiven to an extent, but not elevated  in terms of social esteem.

And the messages for 2020?  In England there is the what ought to be an unsettling  question about how much involvement, interest there is in the game by and among black people.  Perhaps at some point the remaining numbers in the table below will be made public, but in the commercial era of the ECB it is the south Asian communities that have been described as ‘the holy grail’ by those who see franchise fortunes on the horizon. It is a direction of travel that might leave some wondering  how serious the game’s establishment really is about its expressed support for black lives?

Ethnicity Cricket Supporters % E&W Population%
White British 82.0 80.5
Asian 7.5
Black 3.3
Mixed 2.2
White Other 4.4
Other 2.0

ECB figure on cricket supporters. Census (2011) for England and Wales population.

 

The T20 Blast

Harsha Bhogle’s fair minded preface to Cricket 2.0 makes the point that the T20 revolution will carry its ageing parents, others with a preference for the red-ball game, for a while yet. Good  for those of us who appreciate the game in England’s green and pleasant outgrounds, but also what to make of The Blast given the shift to a city-based game in other parts of the world?

Tim Wigmore and Freddie Wilde’s impressively detailed book makes little direct reference to it, beyond its place as the original among T20 competitions. The IPL is, of course, the big centre to the story in Cricket 2.0 and while it would be an exaggeration to say there is no team in the(ir) world view of T20, much of the attention is on its stars; player auctions and the energies of capitalism a good thing for cricketers, particularly those born outside ‘the big three’.

Yet in a changing  cricket world the merits of the mother Blast actually stack up pretty well. England’s domestic T20, in its various guises, has expanded from 48 matches when it started to the current number of 133, an historic structure, but an adaptable one, and given that the IPL has ‘lost’ five franchises out of 13 in the last decade, to date at least, an existentially stable one.

Nor is there any shortage of stats that point to how competitively well-balanced it is. Since 2003 most counties have a win % of 50+/-5, most of the trophy winners have been one of the smaller, non-TMG, and the split between those who are and aren’t getting to finals day near even. The Blast does sporting merit so to speak; relatively equal central distributions to the 18 counties and a salary cap, broadly speaking, working well.

So what’s the problem? A lack of star quality, that the future direction of global sport  is cities not countries? Cricket 2.0 brackets The IPL with US sport, sense in a continental context which is how the (mainly US) scholars whose ideas were an influence in its development conceived of things. In Europe, the Champions League in football is on a scale to fit this framing; cricket, rugby in England not so much, if at all.

And The 100,  better and there for a new audience? It will be ‘heavily reliant’ on the existing one to make it a success said Tom Harrison last month, ‘not about that ultimately’ (.. a new audience) commented Michael Atherton recently, who went on to suggest that its creation is about the ECB owning something that it can exploit.  So mother Blast futures to be offloaded and (failable) franchises the new black? At some point, maybe.

All rather unfortunate given that  cricket does need to attract newcomers.  The decline in  recent times can in large part be traced back to the  unpopular decision to end FTA coverage in 2005, taken, in 2020 parlance,  to ‘flatten the (revenue)  curve’; flattened interest in the game as well, of course, but a difficult decision for those who had to take it, faced otherwise with a drop of 30% or more of TV monies.

But no question that it is also fair warning about the size of the risks going from one TV contract to another, and in 2020-4  almost entirely putting money before exposure. Who needs peak risk, when  there were  obvious messages from the WCF last year about how cricket becomes the subject of bus stop conversations?

Background details on the stats page.

Vintage Summer & The Meaning of Cricket

John Arlott’s gentle nostalgia for the pleasures of a postwar summer strikes something of a chord now for those of us wondering, at least a little bit, what cricket, normal life, will feel like as and when it returns. Quite what a generation who had come through six years of war were  feeling as they watched cricket again  is  something known by those who were there; but in other respects Vintage Summer relates a  season with a rhythm largely familiar to those when the book was published twenty years later.

Much of it is a comforting, happy,  narration which starts with the South African tourists at Worcester. A five test series, won by England, and a 26 game county Championship won by Middlesex followed, with Dennis  Compton and Bill Edrich dominant. Arlott saw cricket almost every day that summer, which he described as the happiest of his life, reaching its finale at the Oval bar in September; from which the book’s epilogue:

‘We had known and felt the untrammelled delight of cricket and, if we could not define it  – and who has ever been able to do so with precision?  – we knew it the more surely for our realisation that it was too richly complex for analysis.’

Something of this sentiment  comes across in Jon Hotten’s book, albeit that his appreciation of the game, the wonder of it, comes from knowing how hard it is, rather than anything especially dreamy or poetic. It is a lively read, largely post the Arlott-era; the author’s  playing experiences, which advanced to the point of a trial net with Hampshire, a starting point for his understanding of the stresses faced by the game’s pros. A take on the inside if not an insider’s take.

Mark Ramprakash finding ‘redemption’ in 100 first class centuries, the difficulties faced by Graham Hick in adjusting to Test Match cricket, bowlers with yips, flag up how  brutal it can be psychologically for those who are, or who become, anxious and then rather ambivalent about their career trajectory heading downwards.

This is not always an easy read, although it is not difficult to sympathise with those experiencing personal agonies . More happily there are of course the careers that went the other way after difficult starts. Graham Gooch bagged a pair in his first Test, was dropped after his second and might have been dropped again, quite possibly ending his England career. At the end of a series in which he struggled Ian Bell made no runs in the epic Ashes finale in 2005: eight balls in the match, one on the last day with England aiming to bat out time.

In analytical,  micro-managed times, the book prompts well on what part talent what part chance, luck, plays in careers, and brings to mind Richie Benaud’s 10-90 ratio. There is a lot else in it, a primer on the game’s early development, amateurs, humour in various places:  a key bowling machine carried round in the back of a horse box en route to an Ashes series win. Those for whom Arlott was a formative influence in taking to cricket were lucky to be sure; and from one who did a stint on the May’s Bounty scoreboard, 330/7 at the close.

 

 

 

 

Sustainable County Cricket

Somewhere the other side of  coronavirus, hopefully, there is a  English cricket season of sorts, however much truncated. Games  behind closed doors in June, streamed, with BBC commentary?  It would be good for the mental health of its listeners if there were. Matches with at least some spectators in attendance by  August? Maybe; but not to doubt that 2020 may turn out to be a season that wasn’t.

As to the capacity of cricket to survive a fallow year financially, the big numbers in the game, ECB revenues,  mainly broadcasting,  and those of the 18 first-class counties came to around £260mn in 2018 and were likely to have been well to the north of £300mn after last summer, which should have left some surpluses. The  ECB’s new TV contract from this year is ‘significantly’ bigger than before, and with help one way and another  from government, it conceivably might be  enough to get the domestic game to 2021.

Quite how long Sky will actually (be able to) fund cricket while showing repeats remains to be seen. But for those of us thinking a future with 18 first-class counties is a marker for the game’s presence, the sustainability  question, if anything, is likely to become more acute. Why struggle to keep a structure intact, critics will ask, if something is not really viable in any event?

Surprisingly maybe county cricket in the time of Sky has, in fact, returned a small profit. The impression from annual snapshots of its financial health in the past has sometimes been rather different, sometimes with reason, but cumulate the 18 financial bottom lines over the years and what you get is shown below.

Legacies and surpluses from ground developments are certainly part of what has sustained the smaller counties, and without the success story of Somerset the trend is close to break-even. Some, of course, have had better experiences than others, but the aggregated line for the non-TMGs, broadly, does not hide great variations within.

Bumpy times at the TMGs; the costs of major ground rebuilds, and expansion to nine when six meant one often missing out problematic, as might reasonably have  been expected. To an extent  this has now been rectified, a major debt write-off (Cardiff), a seriously big capital injection from the  local authority (Southampton/Eastleigh)  and a re-financing (Chester-le-Street) having steadied things.

But a clear and obvious message about speculative excess, the financially unsustainable; from which cue and queue the scepticism over The 100. If the game is about to borrow more against its future, repayment horizons that extend past the current risky TV contract will help. What cricket doesn’t need is more bumpy times of its own making to follow the current uncertain ones.

Charts for the individual counties and other financial details are on the stats page.

 

 

 

 

 

Five Trophies and a Funeral by Stuart Rayner

When Durham were relegated at the end of the 2016 season with penalties from the ECB that seemed harsh, the sympathies of many, including those a distance from Chester-le-Street, were with the county, the game’s governing body once again cast as the villan of the piece. For anyone interested in the background, curious enough for a second take, Stuart Rayner’s book, while mainly about matters on-field, also gives a good airing to the decision-making behind the scenes and the risks that were taken.

He doesn’t shy from pointing out that Durham’s financial difficulties  were, at least partly, self-inflicted. Minor county in 1991 to Test match venue in a little over a decade  seems quick, excessively so, particularly given that it understandably took several years for the county to find its feet playing first-class cricket.  What happened to simply developing a good county ground?

‘Ambition is the centrepiece of sporting dreams  and all of us cricket folks are dreamers in one way or another’, Mark Nicholas is quoted as saying in Durham’s wake. The mission to give local kids opportunities to play first-class cricket, Paul Collingwood was 15 when the county became one of 18, was and is  eminently laudable. The spirit of Durham so to speak, and a strapline of ‘international cricket, locally sourced’  to sell tickets sounds good.

But major new sporting venues can be long-term projects; the Rose Bowl  by comparison took around 25 years to develop from idea to hosting its first Test. Time enough for circumstances,  the world,  to change and for the dreams of cricketing folk to collide. On the horizon here the 18 counties (“centres of excellence”)  concentrated on their main grounds and retreated from playing elsewhere. England, the ECB, essentially did the opposite, with three new ‘international outgrounds’  developed to the point of being able to  stage Test matches.

With no more than 6 venues out of 9 hosting a Test, and with the importance of staging an Ashes fixture to balance years when there wasn’t, a recipe was made for financial problems. By comparison with the other TMG’s, Durham didn’t borrow particularly big, they ‘simply’ couldn’t keep up their interest payments. Breaching the salary cap was one sign of the pressures in the years when trophies were won and financial  losses  made; although it would be fair to add that the county’s revenues, whilst growing with the development of the Riverside,  also became increasingly variable over the years from first ODI in 2000 v WI when 15,000 came, to the Sri Lanka Test attended by  just 2759  in 2016.

But no question that some of the difficulties can be traced to problems at the centre being passed on to the counties, chief among them the ECB being able to maintain its own income from 2006 onwards, which came at the cost of  trading away FTA coverage of England. As to the future, Stuart’s Rayner’s book concludes with the development of younger players as the route for Durham, a return to where the county came in, evolve, the need for financial sanity obvious messages. Messages for others as well, given the new TV contract and the variability of revenues coming the way of the game.

 

Numbers on the background on the Stats page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ECB Directors & The 100

The boardroom practice of  existing directors nominating new ones is open to the criticism that it can create a  merry-go-round  for those involved,  detached from the people in whose interests they are supposed to direct. In the case of the ECB,  county reps  (39 of its 41 members are counties) have  been done away with in the name of board independence, being able to make decisions for ‘the good of the game’.

A count of directorships held by those  on its board shows that Scott Smith, the CFO, leads the way with a total of 10. Apart from his involvement with the National Archery Society he is  the  director of

London Spirt (The Hundred) Ltd Welsh Fire (The Hundred) Ltd
Oval Invincibles Ltd Manchester Originals Ltd
Trent Rockets Ltd Southern Brave Ltd
Birmingham Phoenix Ltd Northern Superchargers Ltd

As independent as that;  if it looks like a rather strange arrangement that is because it is and comes from the ECB being the owner as well as the governing body for The 100. Common or some form of collective ownership has its advantages and is one thing, a common owner of two teams competing in professional sport is another thing entirely.  It is prohibited in football in this country, point number one in the FA’s Owners and Directors Test (of those who are ‘fit and proper’). In rugby it has in the past also been blocked by the RFU.

The rule is there to help keep things honest, promote sporting integrity. Roman Abramovich (reportedly) might have taken over Tottenham Hotspur FC, did take over Chelsea but is prevented from owning both clubs: if he did would the matches between the two  actually be straight and seen as such? Some individuals might find themselves unusually well-placed to profit in ‘prediction markets’ in the event of confusion over the issue.

So does the ECB have a future giving space to a sporting Rick’s  in which its compliance staff will be ‘shocked, shocked to find  that gambling has been going on’? As a matter of external scrutiny when it gave evidence to parliamentarians last year the ownership of The 100 was barely mentioned. The 8 teams were mistakenly referred to as franchises by one MP,  an understandable confusion maybe given the distance that many personally feel from the way the game is run. Two days later the ECB put the detail of London Spirit Ltd and the others on the public record.

Something to keep quiet about? The ECB has set itself up as the sole shareholder of the 8  companies  and it wouldn’t be very surprising if they were turned into franchises at some point, if The 100 lasts. In the last decade cricket’s governing body used to describe itself as a conduit for the game as a whole; on the evidence given to the DCMS it seems ever more like Sky’s conduit, with big decisions about the financing and integrity of the game taken by a very small number of individuals and in whose interest is that?