ECB backs inter-city cup plans

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The Independent Online

An ambitious plan to boost cricket revenues received a cautious welcome yesterday. A proposed floodlit inter-city cup, dreamed up by Lancashire and backed by three of the remaining Test grounds - Surrey, Warwickshire and Yorkshire - hasalready had a thumbs-up from the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Yesterday, the Glamorgan secretary, Mike Fatkin, added his approval. "In principle an inter-city cup is not a bad idea," he said. "There is a definite market for floodlit cricket. The demand is there. It is what people want. We have to be careful, though, that we do not saturate the market."

But Fatkin was rather more wary of the fact that it is Test match centres which are proposing to launch a pilot scheme, possibly towards the end of the season.

"We have certainly not been consulted over this," he added. "And I think it is worth giving it a go, but if there is more to this than mere speculation it would have been right and proper to have discussed it more formally. I would like to think that we, the counties, are going to do things together."

According to the Lancashire secretary, David Edmundson, one of the authors of the scheme, the financial potential is enormous. "As a club we have had no problems getting sponsors and advertisers for our floodlit matches," he said. "To date almost 21,000 people have watched our eight floodlit matches, compared with 7,700 who came to watch 38 days of Championship cricket at Old Trafford last season."

That, claims Edmundson, proves the point. He thinks potential sponsors and broadcasters will be more than happy to stump up for more ambitious matches involving the likes of Madras, Delhi, Johannesburg, Brisbane, Perth and Auckland, taking on Manchester, London, Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Cardiff and Bristol. Oddly, the only county to have installed permanent lights are Sussex, one of the smaller counties.

And while Edmundson said no approaches have been made, television companies such as OnDigital and cable network NTL are believed to be interested in the idea, while American Sports entertainment group SFX and Fablon Investments are thought to be among possible sponsors queuing to get in on the ground floor of an ambitious but exciting scheme.

Precise details of the format are still to be announced, but if there is room in the schedule, a four-team tournament will be held towards the end of the summer.

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