“The younger generation, whether you like it our not, are just not attracted to cricket” – Graves © Getty
ECB Chairman Colin Graves says young people are “just not attracted to cricket” and believes the proposed new 100-ball competition can get more of the younger generation interested in the game.
Although the ECB refuse to release the research which they say underpins the need for the new eight-team, city-based competition, Cricbuzz has been told by the governing body that just 2% of young people named cricket as their number one sport in a 2015 survey conducted on behalf of the ECB.
“It is not attracting the audiences, if it was we would not have that issue,” Graves told BBC Sport. “The younger generation, whether you like it our not, are just not attracted to cricket. In all the work, surveys and research we have done, the younger generation want something different.”
The ECB say that a separate survey concluded that one of the main barriers to people participating in cricket is its complexity, hence the desire to make the game simpler. “They want more excitement, they want it shorter and simpler to understand,” added Graves. “Those are the things we have learnt for this new competition and that is what we have to make it.”
Coming from the Chairman of the ECB, Graves’ comments about cricket’s general lack of appeal are extraordinary. They will only add fuel to those who believe the ECB are attempting to rubbish all that’s good in the current domestic structure in favour of this new competition and the increased broadcasting revenues it has resulted in. The ECB, meanwhile, argue that something has to be done if cricket is to keep its relevance in England and Wales.
Last week, ECB CEO Tom Harrison and Managing Director of the new competition Sanjay Patel met with representatives of the Professional Cricketers’ Association and the 18 first-class clubs at Edgbaston to discuss player concerns with the proposal. During that meeting, the players were told that the 100-ball format is still at the conceptual stage and is not finalised but Graves now says it is set in stone.
“Yes, as far as we and the ECB board is concerned,” said Graves. “One of the things the stakeholders said to us was not to take audience away from Vitality T20 blast. They didn’t want just another T20 tournament on top of what is existing. We have got a model, we have got a skeleton and the players will be involved in that.
“(Managing director) Sanjay Patel and his team have come up with something I believe that is really exciting. I think it is special, it is different, it is shorter. It is trying to attract the audience that we haven’t got at the present time.”
PCA Chairman Daryl Mitchell tweeted his surprise at Graves’ remarks, saying: “He should probably let Tom Harrison know then. That’s not what he told us last week.” Although, in Graves’ mind at least, the 100-ball format is decided, whether each innings will include a 10-ball over remains “open for discussion”, according to the ECB Chairman.