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)

Voices
voices Simon Usborne: It's not about political correctness. It's about decency
Sport
Wojciech Szczesny watches the ball cross the line as Garath McCleary scores for Reading
football All the latest from Wembley as Gunners face Reading in semi-final
Life and Style
health
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...