The aim of County Cricket Matters is to be a voice for those concerned at how top-class cricket is changing in this country. The purpose is not to denigrate those running the game or question the motives behind attempts to broaden the appeal of a sport which has often been its own worst enemy. It is also not to look back to some ‘golden age’, which almost certainly never existed.
Cricket must evolve, but it must do so in ways true to the spirit and traditions of the game. A key part of this is continuing to base our national game around the county structure, as it has been for more than 150 years. Our aims are therefore to:
Highlight what is happening to English cricket and what we believe are the likely consequences for the county game. English cricket has never faced greater threats to its existence as a serious sport. How much longer can the county championship be regarded as a worthwhile competition when it is pushed to extremes of the season? What are the long-term consequences for test cricket of a diminished championship? How can standards and variety be maintained when so much emphasis is placed on short forms of the game? What will be the consequences of a new format in direct competition to the county game but, at the same time, dependent on it for players? We want to provide an independent critique of developments which threaten to change the game forever.
Push for greater accountability for decision-making by ECB, given its role as guardian of the game. We believe the voice of those who love the county game has largely been ignored in recent years. Worse, it has been disparaged and dismissed, sometimes by those whose livelihoods have been rooted in the county game. Cricket is not simply a money-making activity, but part of our national culture, which has developed over many generations. We want those running it to be far more open and honest about their intentions for the longer formats and the role of counties.
Provide a focus for supporters of the county game to question what is happening. Around the country, cricket followers have anxiously watched the game undermined by developments which their county clubs seem unable to resist. We believe those running our counties have a responsibility to stand up for county cricket, and explain what they are doing to safeguard and strengthen it when so much money is being channelled instead into a competing team format to which they are willingly releasing players and coaching staff. We want to help lovers of county cricket ask the right questions of those running the game at local level.
And finally, and most importantly, we want to champion what is great about county cricket. We want to highlight: the diversity that comes from 18 very different county clubs spread throughout the country; the local traditions that are cherished by lovers of the game; the character of many of the county grounds, especially away from the main venues; and the pleasure that comes from watching hard-fought matches unfold over time.
We are not uncritical in our enthusiasm for county cricket, but, as we spelt out in our first edition, we want to see the championship promoted, celebrated, and played throughout the year, and we want consideration given to ways of growing the game which do not destroy what we already have. Most of all, we want recognition that County Cricket Matters.