The Championship Schedule

The Championship has made a welcome re-appearance in the last month after its ‘break for the summer’ and if comments about its sidelining are not exactly new, the point being made has become more a lot more pointed. In 2016 almost exactly a half of the competition was scheduled towards the middle of the summer, since when through a combination of reducing the number of games to 14 and other changes to the fixture list this has declined half-way to not all. The obvious general question here is where is all this heading?

As to the wait between games at the 18 county grounds the longest gaps are not surprisingly at counties that do  cricket festivals on outgrounds, although not all those that play at outgrounds have  particularly long intervals at their main ground. But the impact of  taking the game away from the middle of the English summer in the last couple of years is plainly a general one and for most resulted in a gap of something like two months in 2018.

The CC ‘Summer Break’, no of Days 2018 (2016)

Headingley 127 (63) Chester-le-Street 61 (47)
The Oval 96 (39) Derby 61 (50)
Bristol 77  (89) Leicester 56 (34)
Hove 75 (38) Northampton 56 (39)
Lord’s 68  (35) Southampton 56 (31)
Edgbaston 67  (31) Cardiff 51 (61)
Taunton 67  (39) Canterbury 41 (44)
Old Trafford 64 (50) Trent Bridge 41 (32)
Chelmsford 61 (31) Worcester 40 (37)

 

If rhythm in the cricket season comes from continuity and at least some regularity in the fixture list it has gone missing in the Championship scheduling and there are other variations that from the spectating end of things are difficult to fathom. The six rounds of matches in the first part of the season are played across the weekend, the four rounds of matches in September when the competition reaches its climax, are played during the week.  Matches in 2018 started on all seven days  of the week; those that began two days after the August bank holiday had a scheduled Saturday finish when domestic football was a rival attraction and the following week finished on a Friday when football was on an international break.

In a world of  free streaming and Beeb radio commentary  at some point this might very well risk an exodus of members, the game’s bedrock joining the Chief National Selector in seeing the Championship as an I-pad experience. The August issue of The Cricketer magazine included a piece from its editor making the case for more red-ball cricket mid-summer, central it might be thought to the competition retaining its strategic importance in the game; although with the ECB pushing on with The Hundred and some county voices responding to it by arguing the case for an expanded Blast, the problem for the appreciators of the game’s long-form is evidently a fundamental one.

It is a long way from  obvious that there are enough figures in the cricket establishment with incentives to stabilise the place of red-ball game. George Dobell wrote a piece this summer on the presence of a Cricket Supporters’ Association, a body to give the game’s supporters more of a voice. FWIW, almost 20 years ago this one blogger had some involvement with the setting up of football’s Supporters’ Direct, from which a fairly clear message that there are issues that ‘burn’ (existential ones at many football clubs then) and attract support, and there are good intentions about governance changes, the election of supporters’ reps to boards, which are often the long-road. The tensions within the game being the way they are the need for a campaign for red-ball cricket looks real enough.

 

 

 

Data sourced from Cricket Archive.

 

 

 

 

One thought on “The Championship Schedule”

  1. How many folks does a County Championship match attract to the Oval? Particularly with the Oval’s penchant for putting non-members at the Vauxhall End and putting the beer at the Hobbs Gate? (which is, incidentally, the most revolting thing I have seen at a county ground; at Edgbaston, non-members congregate at the City End, the beer is in a bar at the City End with windows facing the play; not a ball missed; 5 overs, basically, missed if you want a beer at the Oval. How do we attract those who work at weekdays and who won’t buy a membership because they would lose money by doing so, because there isn’t enough play on one county ground at weekends to justify the purchase. Do we create a sort of membership at, say, £300, that covers all county grounds for a whole summer? No, we charge the non-member £1 extra for a pint than members)

    Regardless of beer, a Championship game might attract 1,000 non-members to the Oval while a T20 will attract 12,000. Only in cricket could a club be castigated for putting the 12,000 spectator game before the 1,000.

    I myself am a lover of the red ball game but I appreciate I am a minority. When I (a Warwickshire fan) listened to Sussex v Warks over the BBC Radio stream this week I heard a supposed fan advocate the Championship be 18 counties, all play all once, 17 weeks, with play Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun, and any other form of cricket pushed into weekdays. Other sports don’t have this problem (Manchester United don’t play 3 forms of football) but if they did they would not push the money-maker into the times everyone’s at work, so the least watched form of the game could take up the times everyone’s off work and looking for entertainment.

    At the same time the phone-in fan advocated something or other as a replacement for the “GVP game”. It took the commentators a while to realise he was talking about a replacement for Gentlemen v Players, a match that was replaced 55 years ago.

    The way to bring in fans is not to privilege the Championship and not to privilege members, much as that may upset county members who like watching the Championship. Cricket will not survive on its existing membership base alone. Those who have work and cannot make a day’s play on a Thursday can’t be members; those who want to watch the T20 cannot be members; they pay, per match, far more than members, in ticket sales, in food, and in beer. Let them watch a day’s play in comfort rather than treating them as inferior beings to those who bring their own corned beef sandwiches and pay £175 to watch 30 days’ play.

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