I’ve been tasked by my reader to write a blog on why England should adopt a franchise model for T20 cricket. Franchise sport isn’t really the done thing in the UK. Sports like Basketball and Ice Hockey although moderately successful, fail to bring in the big crowds to become major players in the sporting landscape of the UK. Cricket in England is based around a historical county model. It hasn’t changed much in the past 100 years so the addition of T20 at the turn of the century, the ECB seemed to shoehorn it in to the county structure. Over the past few years there has been changes to the English domestic T20 tournament and for 2014 we will see the arrival of the NatWest T20 Blast with coloured creases and super overs.
Firstly, when it comes to a domestic T20 tournament. You need to have a catchy name. I give you Big Bash League or Ram Slam T20 Challenge. T20 Blast certainly falls into the catchy name bracket, it’s much better than, for example, Friends Life t20.
The county structure means 18 counties are playing in the NatWest T20 Blast Slam Ram Jam IPL. This is far too many. It means too many games, too many meaningless games and counties struggling to squeeze in fixtures around other formats of the game. The NatWest IPL Big Bash Slam Sweep has taken steps to address this but domestic T20 in England needs to take place over a 6-8 week period. The schedule for 2014 starts on the 16th of May and ends on the 23rd of August. So despite the ECB’s changes, the tournament will still be lost and trundling along without meaning until the later stages.
The successful T20 domestic leagues have between 6 and 8 teams, 18 in England is just too many. Here is what I would do. An 8 franchise model utilising the main test grounds and population centres. To speed things up I’ve also added team names.
North London Lions
South London Sillynannies
Manchester Ship Canals
One league, everyone plays each other once. Top 4 go into the semi finals. Nice and simple. My main argument for this and I’m aware I’ve yet to actually make any others, is that T20 fans don’t seem to be hardcore cricket fans. There is nothing wrong with this at all, people go for the experience. This means that they tend to have no allegiance to a particular county and no real interest in 1st class matches. I think this approach would allow for a better deal to be made with broadcasters, less matches means more sell outs and less matches means the tournament will not get lost in other forms of the game. An argument could be made that a shorter T20 season would allow for the career T20 players such as former England player Kevin Pietersen who ply their trade around the world to sign up for the new franchise based English T20 tournament.
What about the counties I hear you cry? Well, does Leicestershire v Essex on a Tuesday really bring in the crowds? I don’t think so. Why not have the counties battle it out for a minor tournament away from the limelight to develop players?
That’s enough. I’m Scottish therefore don’t really know much about cricket.