Lizzy Ammon talks to George Dobell about the formation of a supporters’ association.
What was the inspiration for the supporters’ association?
It was a conversation I had with Gordon Hollins, who is MD of county business at the ECB. He asked if I’d talk to David Morgan, who is conducting a review into the business of domestic cricket. I said yes, of course. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that I’m just one more guy with one more set of opinions.
They’re no more or less valid than the views of anyone else. So I thought I’d seek the views of as many people as possible. That led to the thought that it may be good to have a more formal body that gave supporters, spectators – call them what you will – a voice.
Well it is meant to be a spectator sport, you know. But it often seems as if the spectators are over-looked. Or taken for granted. I’m not saying that supporters are more important than the broadcasters or the players. But they are important. And they have, between them, a lot of experience and a lot of wisdom. We’d be fools not to take that into account. I’m not sure it always is taken into account, though. When the ECB talk about ‘stakeholders’ in the game, I fear they mean the players, the broadcasters and the sponsors. Sometimes they conduct polls into the views of some supporters, but I don’t recall county members being asked their views. That’s a shame. And a mistake.
Look, nearly every supporter could have told the ECB that it was a rubbish idea to have 16 T20 matches in quick succession in the county season.
Nearly every supporters could have told the ECB that international ticket prices were too high. Or that holding the CB40 final under floodlights in September was madness. By the time it had finished, the last train had left to get Somerset supporters home.
Any supporter could have told the ECB these things, but they never asked.
The ECB are very keen to accept spectators’ money, so it makes sense that they should ask what they want, too.
Don’t The Barmy Army or 12th Man already do these things?
Hell, no. The Barmy Army are fantastic. They are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and loyal. Sometimes, without their support, there would hardly be anyone on overseas tours.
But they’re not a supporters’ association. They’re a business, really. I’d like to think they’ll be supportive of this idea.
As for 12th man, well that’s a sub-section of the ECB. It’s designed to build on the market that the Barmy Army have developed and to provide the ECB with a mailing list of potential customers. There’s nothing wrong with that, but people shouldn’t be under the impression that 12th Man is a supporters’ association.
How do you think the idea will be received?
I don’t know. I guess some people will be a bit cynical. But I hope others take it for what it is. Lots of people write on message boards, or call phone in. This is a chance to really make your views count. I really hope people embrace the idea.
Do you think the ECB will take it seriously?
I honestly think they’ll welcome the idea. Why wouldn’t they be? It may help them cater for their customers better. It should help them improve communication.
I don’t see the supporters’ association as being antagonistic. I see it as consensual and supportive. Sure, there is some difference in priority between players, spectators and administrators. But we’ll always have more than unites us than divides us. We all love cricket. The hope is we can help the ECB. It’s not about applying pressure or making threats. It’s about working together for the benefit of everyone.
Is it right that a journalist is running the association?
Probably not, no. So hopefully someone else will come along and offer to take it over in the very near future. Look, I want to take on extra, unpaid work about as much as I want to go bivouacking with Rose West. I’m not the most organised person, either. I’d be a rubbish at taking this forward. But the fact is that no-one else has done this. And, maybe, thanks to SPIN in particular, I have a bit of a platform to get it off the ground.
Look, I can think of loads of obstacles. I can think of 10 reasons not to do anything. There’s always an excuse for a lack of action. But, in a small way, I hope this idea can make a positive contribution to the game and I’d just like to get it off the ground.
What should people who are interested in the idea do?
They should send me an email first of all. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And, ideally, they should include some ideas.
We have a website now, too. Visit cricketsupportersassociation.wordpress.com for a bit more info.
If you hadn’t spoken to spectators, what would you say to David Morgan?
Well, I think I’d have argued for a more predictable fixture list. I’d have stressed the importance of spectators knowing when games will be played.
So, for example, I like the idea of Friday night being T20 night. And play it through most of the season, not in a few weeks in the middle of summer. But here’s a thought: I receive lots of mail saying the ECB should schedule more county cricket on Saturdays. Now, in my experience,that’s a bad idea. People just don’t come. Whether it’s due to all the people involved in club cricket or what, I just couldn’t say. But generally, crowd numbers on Saturdays are very poor.
Personally, I’d schedule the Championship from Monday to Thursday, with a Friday night T20 and a Sunday 40 or 50 over competition. And I’d like to see a return to a FA-Cup style knock-out, involving Scotland, Holland and the minor counties in the middle of the season.
I wouldn’t allow players to go to the IPL and I wouldn’t allow counties to participate in the Champions League if it necessitates ending the county season early.
The players won’t like that.
Well, they have to be realistic. If they want the big salaries, theyhave to play enough to earn them. They should look at the example of American sport, where they play a great deal more. It may well be that county cricket has to be seen as a squad game. So some management of workloads is probably necessary. But the players, more than anyone, should reflect that it’s a spectator sport and that, if they want to be paid to play, they have to please the punter a bit more.
By George Dobell
On May 26, the ECB announced that David Morgan would “conduct an extensive review into the business of domestic cricket.” Commenting on the appointment, the ECB’s Chairman Giles Clarke stated that Morgan and his team would “consult widely with all our key stakeholders across the game.”
But what does the word ‘stakeholder’ mean?
Well, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the definition of stakeholder is:
1: a person entrusted with the stakes of bettors
2: one that has a stake in an enterprise
3: one who is involved in or affected by a course of action But, in ECB terms, it tends to mean the broadcasters, the sponsors and the players. Fair enough: they are all vital. But the views of the spectators – the huge body that indirectly pays the salaries of every player, administrator and journalist – seem, all too often, to be an after-thought.
After all, when the Championship structure was debated last year, how many counties invited the views of their members before making a decision? Oh, one or two did. Generally, however, most of them will take your money and thank you to keep your opinions to yourself.
That’s not necessarily the ECB’s fault. How can they realistically canvass the opinions of such a diverse group as the spectators? My own experience of the current ECB is that it is filled with well-intentioned, hard-working, intelligent people.
No, it’s not a sentence I thought I’d write, either. But it’s true.
And, to be fair, they recently asked me – as someone who watches lots of county cricket – to talk to David Morgan as part of his review. The ECB are trying.
But that set me thinking: wouldn’t it be better if I could talk to David Morgan having gathered the views of as many spectators as possible and then attempt to represent them?
And that led to this thought: isn’t it about time that there was a body that argues for the rights of the spectator? That tries to represent them when decisions are to be made? That gives them a voice?
So, that’s what we’d like to establish. It’s not meant to be a marketing tool for SPIN – we’re really not that cynical – and in a few weeks or months, if the idea takes off, we can look at more formal organisation.
In the meantime, however, if you have any thoughts you’d like to be taken into consideration before the ECB re-organise the structure of domestic cricket, please send us an email: email@example.com
Taken from cricinfo 20th July 2011
All the issues – the schedule, the Indian influence, even discipline issues – should be on the agenda as David Morgan reviews the business of domestic cricket. Morgan, we are told by the ECB, is conducting “an extensive review” and will “consult widely with all our key stakeholders across the game.”
Good. It’s an opportunity to make the improvements we all know are required. But who is a stakeholder?
Generally, the term tends to refer it tends to broadcasters, sponsors and the players. Fair enough: they are all vital. But the views of the spectators – the huge body that indirectly pays the salaries of every player, administrator and journalist – seem, all too often, to be an after-thought.
That’s not necessarily the ECB’s fault. After all, it’s not easy to canvass the opinions of group as diverse as spectators. But isn’t it about time there was a supporters’ association? A body that gives supporters a voice? That argues for their rights and attempts to represent them? It really is.
So that’s what we (by we, I mean the team at SPIN Cricket magazine) would like to set-up. So, if you have any views on ‘the business of domestic cricket’ you’d like to make known to the ECB, perhaps you’d like to email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org (but please don’t use that email for anything else; it’s been set-up only for this).
We’ll do our best to represent your views. If, in a few weeks or months, the idea takes off, we can look at more formal organisation, but hopefully this will be a step in the right direction.