Cricket: Supporters feel unrepresented

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The Independent Online
AS ANOTHER think tank convenes today to discuss the future of the English cricket, a survey conducted among supporters suggests that followers of the game feel they suffer from an alarming lack of representation.

The National Cricket Membership Scheme, a non-aligned organisation set up in 1995 to boost interest in cricket and provide a conduit for opinions, polled 3,000 supporters and discovered that 81 per cent who completed a questionnaire feel their views on possible major reforms are not being properly sought.

That proportion believe that the county chairmen and chief executives due to attend the English Cricket Board's First Class Forum, at the Sheraton Hotel near Heathrow today and tomorrow, have not done enough to canvass opinions on such matters as a two-division county championship and ECB contracts for Test players.

"From the response to the 11 questions we asked, this, along with a strong shift in opinion towards a two-division championship, is the most telling statistic," the scheme's acting secretary, Richard Hill, said.

"County committees are not elected on the basis of any manifesto and, while they may rightly feel their views are those of members, they have no actual mandate to decide on radical change.

"It would be unfair to say that the members of the First Class Forum are unrepresentative of cricket supporters but it is clear that many of those supporters feel they have not been properly consulted."

The survey, to be published in the next edition of the subscription-only magazine Cricket Lore, found that 71 per cent believe the county championship to be insufficiently competitive and 68 per cent are "broadly" in favour of two divisions. Promotion and relegation is favoured by 61 per cent over two equal leagues with "cross-league" play-offs.

"This is the second time we have sought views on a two-division championship and there has been a significant shift since the first survey, which suggested that only 46 per cent favoured such a change and 31 per cent to be strongly opposed," Hill said.

"This mirrors the view that the climate of opinion has changed considerably since Lord MacLaurin published Raising the Standard."

Other answers revealed 77 per cent against selling off Test rights to satellite or cable television channels and 61 per cent who had not been put off attending Tests by the cost of tickets.

The broadest division of views surrounded the question of whether county cricket should be structured to serve the interests of the international game or should stand alone as the core of domestic competition.

The poll asked whether if Test players were contracted to the ECB the England management could instruct counties to rest them from particular fixtures. Some 56 per cent said they would be against such an idea but that does leave 44 per cent in favour.

The whole thrust behind the move towards reform is to find ways of making the England team more successful. However, only 58 per cent said the success of the Test side materially affected their enjoyment of a season with a substantial minority - 42 per cent - not bothered either way.

Further information on the National Cricket Membership Scheme can be obtained from Richard Hill, 22 Grazebrook Road, London N16 0HS.