Thatscricket - News - English county game set for new 20-over competition
Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2002, 22:17 [IST]
Copyright AFP 2001
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London: English county cricket will have a new 20-overs per side competition in its fixture programme next season in a bid to boost spectator numbers, administrators announced on Thursday.[an error occurred while processing this directive]At a meeting at Lord's members of the First Class Forum (FCF), the section of governing body the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) responsible for the county game, voted in the new format as a replacement for the One-day Benson and Hedges Cup tournament which finishes at the end of this season.The new competition will consist of three regional groups of six teams (each side plays five matches) with the three winning teams and the best runner-up progressing to the final day at Lord's, when the two semi-finals and the final will take place.Attendances at England's county championship matches have been declining for decades while even for the more popular One-day games it has been a struggle in recent years to attract spectators.The 20-over format is seen by its advocates as a way of attracting new audiences to cricket and ECB chief executive Tim Lamb said: "I'm delighted that the FCF has voted to back the introduction of a new 20-over competition. This is another very positive development for the future of cricket in this country."But not everyone was convinced that midweek games starting at 5.30 pm local time (7.30 pm local time for floodlit matches) would bring in spectators.Yorkshire, the reigning county champions and perhaps the most traditionalist of all first-class teams, was openly hostile to the concept."We do not believe this competition will improve the standard of the England team, which should be the ultimate goal," Yorkshire chief executive Chris Hassell told BBC Radio."Also, the matches are due to start at 5.00 pm (local time) and we don't see people willing to fight their way through the rush hour for a 20-over match."We can't see how this is going to bring a new audience to the game and we should stick with the tried and trusted one, four and five-day (Test) variations of the game."The FCF also announced its continued support in principle for leading England players to be centrally contracted.But it deferred detailed discussion on whether the number of contracts should be expanded from the present figure of 12 until a report on the subject from England's International Teams Management Group was presented at the next FCF meeting on May 13.
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