Monday, 13 June 2011

Why does county cricket love to shoot itself in the foot?

Having decided that Gloucstershire are a non-starter for this season's T20 the Jessop Tavern cast its eyes around the rest of the county circuit in search of a new T20 team to support. Figuring that we didn't want to be seen as complete glory hunters we decided to place our new found love behind the team with the worst nickname in the competition. The Dynamos from Durham.

Ok, we haven't actually decided to support Durham, as tempting as this might be, but we did find ourselves in Newcastle at the weekend and fancied a bit of cricket on a Sunday afternoon. We wished we hadn't bothered as we were treated to a wonderful example of how county cricket just loves to shoot itself in the foot.

T20 is a very marketable format. Easily the most marketable form of the game. It's short and sweet, and a wonderful vehicle for getting new fans in. Then you go and charge £17.50 a ticket on the gate (Gloucester fans will notice that this is £2.50 cheaper than you will pay to watch the Shire...presumably that's £2.50 to watch Murali) Why the hell are tickets so expensive? I know the argument. In comparison to other sports it represents good value. But do people not realise that its county cricket! Just because people pay stupid money to watch the Premier League doesn't mean that this is your reference point for pricing county cricket.

For me, someone with an interest in county cricket, £17.50 is just about ok. On Sunday I took along a friend who enjoys watching cricket on the tv, and the girlfriend, who doesn't enjoy watching cricket on the tv. Both had to be convinced that it was worth the money. Both my friend and my girlfriend represent exactly the sort of customer T20 should be aiming to attract. People with a passing interest in the game who don't usually go to watch live county cricket. Get these people in, for good value. Let them sit with a few beers and have a good time. It makes perfect sense. My friend in particular would be likely to come again. He works just up the road from Chester le-street and told me he had mentioned to the office the possibility of an evening out to the T20. This was before he realised it cost £17.50. Charge £10, heck, even 7 or 8 quid, and you would get these sort of people coming along.

My next gripe was that I only got to see half a match. After about 15 overs of Derbyshire's innings the drizzle started. It was only light drizzle, and there was no suggestion that the teams would go off. Derbyshire's 20 overs were completed and off they went. Cue the bringing on off the covers. The drizzle did not get any heavier for some time but because the players were now off the field the conditions were 'too bad' for play to be started in. Had they stayed out there they would have still be playing. Ridiculous. Worse still we sat there for 45 minutes before an announcement was made to the crowd. Presumably all the officials knew why we were waiting. Why wasn't this conveyed to the crowd immediately? After all, we pay for them to be there. After an hour of sitting and waiting the drizzle finally got heavier and it had clearly set in. Now I admit that the game probably wouldn't have been able to be finished. But why didn't they at least try. It's so incredibly frustrating when cricket shows such reluctance to try and play on. Bring the players back on quickly as the weather looks a bit dicey, try and get as much of the game played as possible. If the rain gets too heavy, then take the players off and at least we feel that an attempt has been made to play as much as possible.

My friend and girlfriend sat in complete bemusement. They couldn't understand how one minute they watching a game and the next minute they weren't when the conditions had not changed. Needless to say, we won't be seeing a penny of that £17.50 again. Similarly, Durham county cricket club will not be seeing my mate bring along his work colleagues.

Why can the people who run the game not accept that county cricket has almost no appeal to people outside of the core fans of county cricket. If you want to boost the popularity of the domestic game then you need to speculate to accumulate. Lower the prices, make sure you do your best to get as much play as possible, and give people a good time. Then people will start to speak positively about county cricket, and hell, they might even return.

I understand that the counties are desperate to raise as much money from the T20 competition as possible as they see this as their big opportunity to pull in the big crowds. But charging high prices is just the sort of short termism that is ruining the county game.

Rant over. Maybe I'll go back to supporting Glos again.

As an aside. I would also like to take this opportunity to point out that the golden duck this blogger suffered at Archdeacon meadow, and referred to in an earlier post, was due to piss poor advice concerning the bounce of the pitch and is still to this day the only first baller of his career. Now my co-blogger on the other hand.......

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