Think of county members and what tends to come to mind is mature folks, generation 60 at Championship matches, not always appreciated by some in the game although not heard as much as they might have been in relation to The 100 either. With cricket set to embark on this highly experimental change in structure next year, there is an important point about county members: they are still there.
So why weren’t or aren’t members’ voices more of an influence? 15 of the first-class counties are membership organisations and the collective presence, total numbers, of members on the most recent figures is still in the high 60,000s, and although down in the time of Sky, it would be a bit surprising if they weren’t given what has happened since 2005.
Cheerfully at the Oval, Taunton and Trent Bridge membership has been on the rise over the years and at Lord’s, MCCC numbers appear to have held steady at around 8,000. Surrey reportedly 13,000 now, followed by Notts and Somerset, the counties with biggest membership bases.
The drop overall since 2005 from around 80,000 is to a very large extent the falls at Old Trafford, Headingley and Edgbaston; clubs that borrowed big and underwent ground rebuilds ‘fit for the 21st century’, with corporate facilities to match, during the great expansion of TMGs. The count of members no more is sharp comment on the nature, success, of this venture into cricket stadiums; particularly at Lancashire where the decline is very striking.
It is not news that cricket has a problem with a legacy of debts to manage. Given the importance of central funding to the counties, and governance changes resulting in directors nominating cum appointing other directors, the influence of members and supporters, those below rather than above, is not what it should be.
Or what it needs to be. On the time horizon covered by the charts what members still there points to is a shifting balance of CC/ODC/T20 types, generation 40 and above who became interested in the game when it was (much) more widely played in schools than it is now. The ‘ECB risk’ to cricket with its new competition, that it loses more established support than younger newcomers be attracted, is real enough; but for those not feeling any curiosity or attraction, still less duty, to The 100, happily cricket has a rich legacy of ambient outgrounds which seem set to be used more from next year.
There is a table with the numbers for the 15 counties on the stats page.