The ECB vs. Me: The T20 Proposals Compared

As new details about the ECB’s proposed T20 league have leaked, I think it’s well worth comparing it to the competition I proposed in my first post. To summarise, my proposal was this:

Instead of playing a franchise T20 league in England in August, play it in Dubai in October.

You can read about the full reasoning in the post here. Now at the time, my idea was basically opposing an amorphous IPL/BBL-style competition. Now there are specifics, I can go through point-by-point why I still think an overseas T20 competition is better for everyone.

1: Tests Will Be Played During The Competition Window

The major problem with this is that Test cricket is still the dominant form of the game when it comes to the British general public. If they can name any current England players at all (and that’s a big if), then it’s most likely they will be from the Test team. Starting a new competition without your 8-9 most famous players seems ridiculous, but it seems to be what the ECB wants to do.

Even if the new T20 competition is worth £40m per year, the coverage of the England team will still be significantly more valuable. The ECB therefore can’t afford not to schedule seven Tests and 12 limited overs games over the summer, and mostly during the period when the weather is best in England. There is also an argument to be made that this could mean there’s too much cricket on TV. If you have a day of Test cricket followed by by a T20 night game on TV, that could be 11 or 12 hours of constant coverage. I honestly think that might be too much for some cricket fans to handle, causing them to burn out or lose interest.

Oddly, I think it would be easier for the ECB to make all of its centrally contracted players available in October than at any point during the English season. The ECB can simply refuse to consider touring overseas during the month.

2: The One Day Cup Will Be Played During The Competition Window

Not unlike England’s international commitments, there really isn’t any room in the county schedule to carve a 36-day window into it without some casualties. Either you reduce the number of county games, or they carry on playing with significantly weakened teams and perhaps on outgrounds. The ECB have clearly gone with the second option. The new T20 competition will undoubtedly take the 96 best limited overs county players, so it seems somewhat ridiculous to play another limited overs competition at the same time. The ECB also suggests that county coaches will be made available for the new T20 teams. So not only will many counties lose half of their starting eleven but also their coaches, and yet they will still be expected to play a full schedule of games.

There is another massive problem with this. It will basically mean most of England’s best hundred limited overs players won’t play any 50 over cricket during the English season. To remind everyone, two of the three ICC competitions England compete in are 50 overs: The World Cup and The Champions Trophy. They’re also the two ICC competitions England have never won, and you’d have to be surprised if they ever won one after their plans come to fruition.

Since both Tests and the T20 competition will take place at the same time, it seems unlikely that there will be any TV coverage of the One Day Cup either.  That presumably means that the sponsorship deal will drop in value, and there will be 12 fewer televised county games (according to this year’s Sky Sports schedule). If we consider a 50 over game to be roughly twice as long as a 20 over game, that’s the equivalent of 24 T20 games no longer shown on TV. The new competition will consist of 36 games, so at most there will only be an extra 12 games of cricket on TV per season.

By comparison, my proposal of playing in Dubai in October requires no weakening of county cricket, and English players will be as well-prepared as they are now to play ODIs. Perhaps more importantly, instead of there being at most 12 extra games of English cricket on TV there would be 36. I’m of the opinion that more English cricket on TV is always a good thing.

3: It Will Be Played From 24th July to 30th August, 2020

This probably the thing which most annoys me about the ECB’s proposal. The idea that playing a T20 competition during the school holidays will bring children into the sport seems pretty ridiculous to me.

For a start I would wager that most of the games on weekdays would be played at night, meaning they’d end around 10pm if not later. Kids are certainly not going to be able to attend those games, and likely won’t be able to see them to the end on TV. Even if the children did want to watch it, their parents will almost certainly be home and so the main TV will be showing what they want to watch instead. Basically, the only children who are likely to see any significant amount of the new competition have parents who are already fans of cricket. Hardly breaking new ground and creating a new generation of English cricket fans.

If you want children of non-cricket fans to see cricket on television the best times to do it would be from around 3.30pm to 5.30pm on a school day, or any time before 5.30pm on a weekday during the school holidays. Those are the times when a child is most likely to have control of the TV remote, although even then you’d have to persuade them somehow to choose cricket over the multitude of TV channels targeting their age group.

The dates also seem to conflict with the Caribbean Premier League. Last year’s CPL finished on August 7th, suggesting the two competitions would overlap by two weeks. If overseas players were forced to choose between the CPL or the new ECB competition, I can’t see why they’d come to England. The CPL would be in its 8th season in 2020, and so could be considered a safe and reliable option compared to a new and untested competition elsewhere. Also, given the choice I’d rather spend July and August in the Caribbean than (for example) Cardiff. I assume most cricketers feel the same way. October has no major T20 competitions taking place, so a competition taking place then would have the very best overseas players available.

Another reason for the ECB favouring August would be that it’s generally considered the month with the best weather in England. Let’s have a look at how good the average weather in August really is in England, according to holiday-weather.com:

City Rainfall Days
Birmingham 18
Cardiff 17
Leeds 14
London 13
Manchester 21
Nottingham 10

So in the best-case scenario, one-third of the ECB’s T20 tournament could be rain affected. On the other hand, the average number of rainfall days in Dubai in October is 0. Zero. Surely from a TV company’s perspective that has to be a better option?

4: The T20 Blast Will Be Played Through April And May

The T20 Blast has been something of a success story for English domestic cricket. It’s moved around the calendar on an almost annual basis, is barely covered by the mainstream media and it’s seemingly undervalued by the ECB themselves. Despite all these things, attendances and interest still rise year-on-year. It’s a real testament to the counties that they can do this with so little support from the ECB

According to this article, the ECB considers the TV rights for the T20 Blast (if they were sold separately, which they aren’t) to be worth £7.5m. To put this figure in context, this season Sky Sports will show a minimum of 34 T20 Blast games which the ECB considers to be worth $7.5m. For the new proposed T20 league, the broadcaster will apparently pay £40m to show 36 games. Both competitions won’t feature most England players, and aren’t likely to include the top T20 players from around the world either. At least one of the ECB’s valuations must surely be wrong.

5: The Rest

In all honesty, the other aspects of the ECB’ proposals don’t particularly affect my suggestion. There being 8 new teams playing over 36 days with 15 players per squad is the basic blueprint from the global T20 leagues, which I basically copied for my own post. All of this, and the other structural details for the ECB’s new league, work just as well (if not better) in Dubai in October.

So, if anyone wants to call me an imbecile with a dangerously low IQ, feel free in the comments below. In all seriousness, I want someone to tell me where I’ve gone wrong. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and can’t see how the ECB’s competition is in any way better, or more lucrative, than the one I’ve put forward.

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