EPL: counties or regions?

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What is the EPL?

There’s going to be an English version of the IPL. We’re calling it the EPL, because we’re pretty sure that’s what it’ll be.

England already has a Twenty20 tournament of course. There are three leagues and the best teams go through to quarter finals. For some reason, if this was changed into just a league with no knock-out phase, it becomes massively appealing to sponsors. This is because you get to use the word ‘premier’ and any kind of ‘premier league’ is like an overfruiting money tree. That and the fact that a Texan billionaire’s behind the idea. That helps with the money too.

Counties, regions or franchises?

One question that remains unresolved is who will compete in an EPL. Will it be the current counties or a smaller number of franchises or city teams?

Sean Morris, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers’ Association points to the apparent success of the IPL’s franchises and says this is the way forward.

ECB chairman, Giles Clarke, points to those very same teams, only he sees them as state teams and therefore believes this backs up the county format.

No-one seems to question whether a fortnight is a sufficiently long period in which to gauge IPL success nor whether what’s successful in India might translate to the UK or not.

Too many counties for one league

Whether they go down the county or the region route, we’re sure of one thing. 18 first-class counties is too darn many to have in one league. We spend more time than most reading about cricket and we’re having trouble getting to grips with the teams in the IPL – and there are only eight of them.

If you want to get huge TV coverage and the accompanying sponsorship money, you have to appeal to more people. This means appealing to new people and you aren’t going to achieve this by giving them 18 teams to remember. People need an easy way in.

This would seem to favour the regional idea. Counties could merge and share the profits. Alternatively, the counties could be split into three leagues of six, but we have reservations about that.

Hampshire finished bottom of their Twenty20 group last year. If Hampshire were in the third of three Twenty20 leagues, then Kevin Pietersen would be in the bottom of three Twenty20 leagues and TV and advertisers wouldn’t be happy about that.

But would he be in division three? Would market forces come into play? Perhaps the more successful Twenty20 sides with their extra income could afford to sign the best players from the weaker counties. There are huge ramifications here. If Twenty20 becomes the driving force for counties, it means the richest counties are geared towards that form of the game and players will be produced accordingly. Is this good for Test cricket? Almost certainly not.

The regional concept guards against this. All counties are effectively involved in the top flight and money can be equally distributed. It should also mean a higher standard of cricket. A regional team would use only the very best players from its three contributing counties and foreign signings – who are central to this whole idea – would be spread less thinly as well.

Self-sufficient counties

Whichever way they choose to go, the important thing is that the counties start to pay for themselves. England’s counties are not financially self-sufficient, taking millions of pounds that come in from England games. If an EPL in any format overcomes this, the resultant savings could go on a number of things.

Least appealingly for the fans, the money could go on salaries for England players. Cricketers’ priorities seem to be following the cash, so ensuring Test players earn more than domestic Twenty20 cricketers might solidify Test cricket’s position as the number one format.

Or the money could be used to reduce ticket prices at England games or to ensure free-to-air TV coverage of the national team. William Buckland, writing in The Wisden Cricketer, said that the current situation for cricket supporters in England is leading to a game that’s becoming an expensive indulgence for the upper middle classes in London and the shires, like the opera. It would be nice if this trend could be reversed, but would the ECB willingly refuse Sky money for a greater audience?

Or the money could go to grass roots cricket. That’s never a bad idea.


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  1. City Franchises have to be the way to go, it just makes sense.

    North to South:-


  2. Suave, don’t you EVER accuse us of journalism. Who do you think we are?

    Gaz, do you envisage these city franchises starting from scratch and recruiting players or do you see them as being amalgams of counties?

  3. Sorry sire, I forgot myself for a moment!

    That’s not a bad idea Gaz, I may have to redo my EPL teams to match that.

  4. Oh, serious stuff…

    I like the idea of city doodads but can’t imagine it’d ever really happen. Same time though 18 teams is clearly too many, so leagues make sense to me, but you’d need meaningful leagues, and that means deliberately encouraging counties to financially compete as well as on the field to be a better team and be known for it. I hate football like animal cruelty and Vaughny in those Skins ads (Ewwwwwww) but Sussex Vs Glamorgan should surely look more like Man U Vs Scunthorpe not both teams lined up against a wall and Chris Adams gets first pick…

    Obviously you would want a good bunch of “better” teams not just Sussex vs Surrey being the only skilled contest of course, but at some point surely the fittest should be allowed to get together and make other teams suffer.

    Also *I* say have a larger league structure covering 2nd class counties and onwards… seems kind to them and mostly harmless.

    So you’d be ale to have a smaller group of elite players giving the benefits of the “franchises” but without actually having to support the Murdoch Murderers or whoever else would own their souls.

    Separately part of the EPL logic would be to whore out to other international players as well, so whilst the 50 over ot county matches would still contain mostly the brits plus Mushy, suddenly the best players then get sidelined in favour of bigger named payers for T20? seems odd there. I’d certainly rather see Rob Key play T20 than Ponting (what a joke… it’s almost like seeing Vaughan try to pay T20… hahaha). What happens to half the top order batsmen in the better county squads? Loan to other counties? 2nd teams? nothing seems logical other than to sit out the tournament…

    Hmm… never actually given a real opinion before.. wonder if this counts…

  5. I’d definitely say 8 rather than 6 of whatever in the top flight though. 6 seems too intimate with little room for maneuver. Sadly I too had spit all the counties into 3’s…

  6. But wouldn’t a survival of the fittest league structure lead to counties putting all their resources towards Twenty20? Isn’t there a danger in that?

    Maybe there isn’t.

  7. Well if you are keeping with the same teams across the different formats then they would still have the same players in each format, save for some specialization maybe. I doubt anyone thinks there’s a genuinely great solution, and just keep coming back to the fact that some people seem to be deluding themselves into thinking we’re actually india with cleaner water and blander food. The popularity in the UK for cricket is tiddly really, and T20 would take a long time to really become anything resembling prime time viewing for the masses, so there just aren’t as many resources at all.

    Maybe our mate Allen would like to go to the other extreme and promote the removal of time limits on county matches? Think how much he could make charging old Albert and his tartan blanket for getting into 23 days of a county match rather than just 4! There’s gold in them there flasks!

  8. This post is FAR too serious – what happened to all the pictures of Rob Key riding a triumphant wave of glory?

    Have you run of out bandwidth?

  9. Don’t worry. We knew when we clicked ‘publish’ that something like this (and of this length) would have to be the last of its ilk for a good long while.

    Pictures of Rob Key riding a triumphant wave of glory atop his vehicle, the capybara, whilst sporting a crown and wielding a flaming sword will be gratefully received and published. That goes without saying.

  10. Please don’t torment me King. I am teaching a class of beginners the joy of text and cannot do lovely pictures of Major Key riding in triumph.

    Your serious journalism upset me too – t’aint natural – until I read the bit about reducing cricket prices and the ECB refusing Sky money hahahahahahahahhaa…..

  11. ‘Gaz, do you envisage these city franchises starting from scratch and recruiting players or do you see them as being amalgams of counties?’

    I’d see them starting from scratch. If you combine Three Counties to make one team, then a squad is going to have 60 players, which is alright if it’s 20/20 rugby they intend to play. Also, players don’t really have ties to any particular city at the moment, so their wont be conflicts of interest. With my City setup there you could have the ‘star players’ as well, Colly for Newcastle, Pietersen for Southampton, Bell for Birmingham etc etc

    I’d honestly just go with a carbon copy of the IPL.

  12. Biggest detractor i saw with IPL is the lack of any reason whatsoever to support your local team. Even a lot of the younger guys around India have gone to other franchises than their nearest one. In the EPL when it’s Hussey and Sangakarra vs Macullum and Chanderpaul, who do you bother supporting, even if one of them happens to be named after a city only 100 miles from you compared to 300…

    I’d say it *should* be as local as possible where possible to start with, to let better teams be better from the off, rather than spreading the talent too fairly. Sports aren’t about fairness, they’re about mockery and misery.

  13. What bothers me about this whole shebang, is that most clubs make up a huge percentage of their income, from 20/20 already.

    The 20/20 cup finals day is already sold out, their are barely any seats available for any of Essex’s t20 games. They can’t really squeeze any more out of the fans, so how are they going to increase the revenue?

  14. I think the big player here is TV rights, rather than fans going into the ground. I’d assume they’d be able to sell an EPL to India, Australia, Pakistan etc, if there was enough player representation from those countries.

  15. Should Rob get his England call-up, then pictures of him riding a triumphant wave of glory atop his capybara steed will be forthcoming.

    On the IPL, then I agree mostly with Suave – a ticekt for the Roses 20/20 match is already about a bazillion quid, so ticket prices couldn’t really go up much.

    As for TV revenue, once the novelty wears off, then I doubt that mnay people outside of the UK would be any more excited about an EPL than Miriam’s cat is about the IPL.

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