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The slow death of our summer game

Comments Off on The slow death of our summer game 01 July 2017

The slow death of our summer game

Not that long ago, quite a few people, other than serious enthusiasts, followed the cricket season and knew many of the competitions. The Nat West Trophy, the Benson and Hedges Cup and the John Player Sunday League were distinctive competitions, we knew roughly when each competition took place, especially the Sunday League, oddly enough, and they were shown on terrestrial television. Not before time, the authorities have agreed to return some cricket to the BBC from 2020, although the vast bulk of it will remain with Sky. But will it be too late?

Today it’s the final of the Royal London Cup, whatever that is. Well, I do know what that is because I asked my friend Mr Google, but even though I pay Sky’s extortionate subscriptions I have not watched any of the tournament. There are reasons for this.

We know that since cricket left terrestrial TV, participation in the game has dwindled and viewing figures are now measured in the low hundreds of thousands, at best. No one apart from cricket fans will know most of the England team unless they have appeared on Strictly Come Dancing and as for the counties, the situation will be even worse.

There was a time when I could name the entire Gloucestershire team and sizeable chunks of the other first class counties. Now I do not know a single Glos player and recognise only the big stars of the England team. Indeed, there are names in the test team I have never heard of. Terrestrial coverage is surely the only way to save our summer game, right?

Today’s Royal London Cup is between Nottinghamshire and Surrey and I am pleased to say I have heard of at least one of the players, the England fast bowler Stuart Broad. I cannot pretend I am remotely interested, though, and judging from the vast number of empty seats at Lords, I am not alone in my apathy.

The ticket prices cannot help. Most seats cost £50, with the dearest ones costing £60. The cheap seats in the middle distance cost £30. This is not a cheap day out and, I would suggest, the vast majority in attendance will be, shall we say, not struggling to put bread on the table. But this is a final, not just some Mickey Mouse preliminary game. Why don’t the authorities charge a little less to attract those on lower incomes? I know that the admission price for children is a fiver, which is great, but what about the workers?

I wonder just who is watching the Royal London final? Not cricketers, who will probably be playing cricket and certainly not your casual viewer. I’ll wager there will be less than 100,000 tuned in to Sky which is pretty poor given how much money they have thrown at it over the years.

My feeling is that the authorities have left it to late to return cricket to a mainstream audience and it could take a generation, or more, to take it to the levels it previously reached. When the captain of England is a virtual unknown up and down the land, you know something is terribly wrong.

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