In no way am I the first to put digits on the keyboard to share some thoughts on The Hundred, and in no way will I be the last.
It’s Cricket Jim, just not as we know it!To Paraphrase
A recurring theme in my Cricket Debate posts is the apparent lack of business experience in the ECB’s decision making process.
I fully understand the need to generate greater profits, and that a starting point is to look at your two greatest revenue streams: TV rights and match day revenues.
On the other hand it surely makes sense to start by looking at how you can expand on your current foundations: your cost base and your customer base.
As far as TV rights are concerned there are only two real factors: more games and/or longer games. If ‘attention span’ is an issue for fans, which we can assume it is, then more games is the obvious area to look at.
As far as the customer base is concerned the old adage remains valid: it is cheaper to keep a customer than attract a new customer (although this is something may businesses seem to forget when they make introductory offers to new customers but forget to reward loyal customers with the same offers).
It would be relatively easy to achieve more games: double headers, playing the woman and men games on the same day, a different tournament structure requiring more games. You would probably need larger squads, but that would be achieved by increasing the number of overseas players to say four? Seem familiar?
18 Counties, each playing more games, with a total of 72 overseas players, is significantly more cricket and more ‘stars’ than The Hundred offers. I assume this would satisfy the TV Companies thirst for content. And let’s not forget the England Players playing for their counties – is it not a little ironic that they are not released for the T20 but the likes of Bairstow are sent packing to Wales (I like Wales) to play in some Franchise nobody has any inherent loyalty to?
I have not forgotten the Woman, but if the ECB is serious about developing this side of the game then facilitating each County to have a Woman’s T20 would not be a bad place to start. I suspect a Woman’s County structure is not viable, but why not look at having mixed teams in the County Structure? May get a few more fans along to these games ……..Food for thought
Now what about the ‘poor’ customer. I say ‘poor’ somewhat ironically as they soon will be with the amount of cricket they are being asked to pay for.
Let’s look a moment at the make up of the costs associated with going to a match: travel, tickets, merchandise, food, drink ….. it all adds up as is required on a per game basis. Double headers, playing a T20 at the end of a County Game would all provide options to reduce these costs.
I ‘get’ the ECB’s desire to attract a younger customer base but I have two major concerns with their approach: 1) the youngsters aren’t going to pay are they? That is going to be down to good old Mum and Dad once again, and unless they have a magic money tree every family is restricted by their disposable income, so for the vast majority choices will need to be made. 2) if you don’t have an established long term plan to retain these customers (and their cash) you are pretty much onto a loser – high cost to attract them, short shelf life to exploit them. Not the best business model for sure.
Cricket has a well proven customer model: children go to the cricket with their parents, children grow up and go to cricket on their own, children take their parents to the cricket then their own children are included ….. but tastes change, we like variety: a T20 game provides one type of enjoyment, a Test Match another, a County Game another. Each equally enjoyable, each equally as good, just different.
As a member of both Warwickshire and Yorkshire I feel that the ECB has got The Hundred totally wrong. I fail to see how it will make money, but even if it does I am concerned at what cost? Scheduling during the ‘best months’ puts another level of pressure on the Counties who are struggling a) to attract enough fans and b) produce enough high quality future Test players. I can genuinely see a scenario where the ECB spends a fortune to attract youngsters to Cricket only for there to be no cricket to satisfy their cravings as they grow older: one rule of getting people addicted is to ensure you have an ongoing supply.
A recurring bug bearer of mine is how both ‘my’ counties seem to think I am by default interested in ‘their’ The Hundred. I am not! I support Yorkshire because I was born there and I support Warwickshire because I live 30 minutes away. I go to T20 games at both, international games at both, and county games at both. That is enough cricket for my wallet, and I love the different options for the different experiences they offer. I have absolutely no affinity (or interest) at all with something called the Northern Super Chargers or the Birmingham Bears – as an aside this shows the addled thinking of those in charge i.e. no consistency in the naming structure. I do resent the counties emailing me to offer me ‘membership’ rates for something I am not a member of, or indeed would be if membership of a Franchise was even a thing, but I do smile when they extend the 50% off deals for yet another ‘limited time’, whilst at the same time emailing me that the T20 tickets are selling fast and are now only available at full price.
My biggest issue by far, both personally and from a business perspective, is that the they seem to have no concept of loyalty! I donated my 2020 membership to both counties, and in return am being rewarded with potentially less cricket (if COVID-19 restrictions effect the County and T20 seasons they are not going to re schedule The Hundred), of a lower standard (Cricket in April and September in the UK is not remotely sensible), and please don’t talk to me about England Players having to rest during the New Zealand Test Series but being available for The Hiundred.
So even if The Hundred is a success, I suspect it will be short lived, and will take many a loyal County fan along with it.
So where does that leave me? I will not spend any money on The Hundred. I will no doubt catch the odd game on TV if nothing else is happening: and being of an age where my hair is past it’s prime there are only so many nights I can wash it!
I know a few players that are scheduled to play in The Hundred and I wish them well and do not blame them at all for signing up.