This article was originally published on All Out Cricket on May 9th 2016.

What direction should our domestic game take when the ECB’s current broadcasting deal with Sky expires ahead of the 2020 season? Here’s AOC’s vision for the future. 


The 2017 revamp whereby Division One is reduced to eight teams and Division Two features 10 teams makes sense and we see no need to change it. Decreasing the number of Championship fixtures each county plays from 16 to 14 – allied with our pared down One-Day Cup – will help to relieve fixture congestion and give players more time to work on their game over the course of the season rather than simply jumping from one game to the next with little to no chance to iron out any technical issues.

The Championship will run throughout the summer from April to September, breaking for a five-week block across July and August for the T20 Cup.


We play too much 50-over cricket in this country, with many of the fixtures having nothing riding on them by the time the group stage of the current competition nears its end. Crowds are generally poor and from speaking to cricketers on the county circuit, it’s clear many of them are equally uninspired.

Let’s give the format a shot in the arm by doing away with the convoluted existing competition and replacing it with an FA Cup-style, 46-team knockout tournament, with a handful of fixtures televised on free-to-air TV. Fewer games, and every one matters.

By including the Minor Counties, this new competition would also have the advantage of taking the game to areas of the country that are starved of professional cricket. We were tempted to revert back to 40 overs to make the competition more appealing for broadcasters but the results of our recent survey, in which 75 per cent of respondents told us they wanted a 50-over competition, convinced us otherwise.

Here’s how it would work:

ROUND ONE (to be played in early April)

• A round of 28 teams – the 20 Minor Counties plus Huntingdonshire, Isle of Wight and the six Marylebone Cricket Club Universities (Oxford, Durham, Leeds-Bradford, Cardiff, Loughborough and Cambridge) – with the 14 winning sides progressing to Round Two

• One fixture to be televised live on free-to-air

ROUND TWO (to be played in late April)

• A round of 32 teams, as the 18 first-class counties join the 14 winners from Round One, with the 16 winners progressing to Round Three

• One fixture to be televised live on free-to-air

ROUND THREE (to be played in mid May)

• A round of 16 teams

• One fixture to be televised live on free-to-air

From here the competition would progress to quarter-finals (played in late May), semi-finals (played in early June) and a final (played at Lord’s in early July, just before the five-week block for the T20 Cup begins). One quarter, both semis and the final would be televised on free-to-air TV.

First-class counties would be required to play a maximum of five fixtures in the competition (as opposed to 11 in the existing One-Day Cup). By completing the competition before the T20 Cup begins, the One-Day Cup would have its own recognised slot in the county calendar, with the one-day final at Lord’s reclaiming its showpiece status, rather than being an afterthought tagged on in mid September.


The desire for a city-based T20 franchise model in this country is gathering momentum, in no small part down to the success of the Big Bash League which has helped to reinvigorate Australian cricket by packing out grounds and capturing the imagination of a new generation of fans. It’s left many of us in this country looking on with envy.

Just 13 years since England held the world’s first fully professional T20 competition, has our domestic game already been left behind? England’s limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan believes that to be the case, arguing that our current system is “flawed” and “five years behind everyone else’s”.

There are certainly lessons that English cricket can learn from the Big Bash, in particular the benefits of making the competition more family-friendly and boosting attendances by playing it during the school holidays – this has already been implemented in the ECB’s revamp for 2017.

Then there is the thorny issue of free-to-air TV. In our view the new broadcasting deal for the year 2020 must include some T20 cricket available to punters who don’t have a paid-for subscription. “Australia would no more think of taking cricket off free-to-air television than fly to the moon,” Mark Nicholas told us last year. That English cricket fans haven’t seen a cricket match live on free-to-air since the 2005 Ashes is hugely regrettable and needs to be fixed. We hope that whoever secures the broadcasting rights for 2020 onwards is forward-thinking enough to understand that hiding the game behind a pay-wall is no way to bring new fans to the game and secure its long-term future.

So, two important lessons learned from our Australian friends. But does that mean the whole Big Bash model is applicable in the UK?

In our view it isn’t. In Australia, where 69 per cent of the population live in the six cities that host Big Bash sides, a city-based franchise tournament makes perfect sense. However, if we were to adopt the city-based English Premier League model as advocated by Freddie Wilde, which would feature nine teams playing across eight cities (Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Southampton), it’s important to note that those eight cities account for only 21 per cent of the population of England and Wales.

Not only would we be telling existing fans of Derbyshire, Essex, Gloucestershire, Kent, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Somerset, Sussex and Worcestershire that they would have to travel many miles to support a team with which they have no affiliation, we’d also be greatly harming our chances of bringing any new supporters from those regions to the game – especially if we don’t get our wish of matches being aired on free-to-air TV.

T20 is cricket’s most marketable product and we need to ensure that it is accessible to as many people as possible. A city-based franchise model actually runs the risk of disenfranchising some of the people who care most about county cricket and, however alluring the Big Bash might look on our TV screens, that can’t be right.

We believe there are significant improvements that can be made to our T20 competition to broaden its appeal without adopting a city-based franchise model. These are the changes that we’d like to see put in place by 2020:

• Tournament to be played in one five-week block during July and August to coincide with the school holidays

• Dispense with two regional groups and have a nine-team ‘Premier League’ and nine-team ‘Championship’

• In both divisions each team plays eight group games (four home and four away)

• 1st plays 4th and 2nd plays 3rd in the Premier League semi-finals, with the two winners contesting the grand final in late August (the Women’s Cricket Super League final to be played on the same day)

• 8th and 9th in the Premier League are relegated to the Championship

• 1st in the Championship is automatically promoted to the Premier League, with 2nd and 3rd contesting a play-off to see who joins them

• Three overseas players per team in the Premier League, two per team in the Championship

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *