Behind the boundary, counties are on war footing

There is an enduring image of county cricket as a cosy cartel watching the world go by, usually in deckchairs. It turns out that they are all at each other's throats, worried about going broke.

In a year spent travelling the shires, Graeme Wright was dismayed to find a sport in the grip of crisis and conflict. His findings may (or may not) come as a surprise to the England and Wales Cricket Board as they begin their own review into the business of the domestic game.

Wright, a former editor of Wisden, reveals that much of county cricket is burdened by debt and paying the interest on that debt. There is a feeling that the ECB would not mind if some of the counties went out of business, and it emerges that many of them want different things.

"The feeling of conflict really came across to me," said Wright. "They don't trust each other. They're scared that if they agree on something, somebody will break ranks because it's to their advantage, or the board will promise somebody a Test match or a bit more cash for ground development."

The details of Wright's research are contained in his book Behind the Boundary – Cricket at the Crossroads. It may be required reading for David Morgan, the former ECB chairman, who is conducting the board's review.

Wright investigates the debt that some counties, particularly those staging international matches, took on to pay for ground improvements to comply with ECB requirements. It has pushed some, including Yorkshire, who have an immediate debt of £4 million, close to collapse. There lies the dilemma.

As Wright said: "There has been no shortage of people pointing a finger at Yorkshire. But what was the club supposed to do? The alternative was not hosting Test cricket."

Although Wright avoids trying to provide solutions (partly, perhaps, because there may be no solution) he is adamant that the professional game cannot survive under the present structure. Everybody agrees that county cricket is no longer viable as a business, if it ever was, but no two counties appear able to agree on what should happen.

"The people who run the game have to see themselves as a co-operative," said Wright. "A way to start would be to have an independent chairman who doesn't come from the counties.

"My argument really is how we do keep hold of county cricket as a valuable and intrinsic part of English community life. The 18 counties need to work together under a proper administrative body, have their own chief executive and a small admin staffthat will essentially look after and promote the county game."

The ECB do not come out well from Wright's researches and the counties clearly feel there has been obsessive tinkering, which has led to a risibly cluttered schedule. But the surprising conclusion is that all the counties realise change is inevitable.

"If the conversations reinforced any preconceptions it was that while everyone has different ideas, nobody says the structure should stay the same," Wright reported.

'Behind The Boundary' by Graeme Wright (A & C Black, £9.99)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map