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Page last updated at 17:09 GMT, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 18:09 UK

England chief rejects county plan

Giles Clarke
Giles Clarke feels the 18 first-class counties should remain

England and Wales Cricket Board chief Giles Clarke says he is opposed to any plans to merge the 18 first-class counties into "city franchises".

The Professional Cricketers' Association believes the format could compete with India's Twenty20 leagues.

But Clarke said: "Franchise sport has simply never worked in the UK.

"Tradition and history rather than Bollywood stars and glitz are what persuade supporters to return week in, week out, to our grounds."

Speaking at the ECB's annual general meeting on Wednesday, Clarke said his vision of an English Premier League would be based on the traditional model rather than new teams.

PCA chief executive Sean Morris said in an interview last Friday: "When you look at the broadcasting deal that will drive it, and for sponsorship partners and for fans, does playing 18 teams really stack up?"

I hope to give more details in the days and weeks ahead, but I can guarantee that everyone in the game - from playground to Test arena - will benefit

Giles Clarke

But Clarke does not believe the concept of a slimmer league structure along the lines of the IPL, which features eight teams, would work in England.

He said "Some of the ideas spouted in the media have been frankly ludicrous.

"Can you, I was asked by a leading television executive, imagine cricket lovers rushing down St John's Wood Road to see a franchise called Vodafone Team London owned by an ageing rock star?

"There has never yet been a successful Team London in any sport and nor is there likely to be any support for a Team Manchester or Team Leeds from traditional areas of rivalry such as Liverpool or Sheffield.

"When ECB launched their own Twenty20 Cup it was on the back of extensive spectator research and financial analysis.

"This is an exercise we will repeat before launching any new competition because we have said this tournament must be robust, spectator-friendly and economically sustainable."

606: DEBATE
BBC Sport's Oliver Brett

Some of the individual counties' chief executives and chairmen favour a smaller number of teams, while others agree with Clarke.

American billionaire Sir Allen Stanford told BBC Sport last Thursday he was ready to invest heavily in an English version of the IPL, which he felt could be worth as much as 500m.

Clarke said: "I thank Sir Allen for his interest in cricket in England and Wales, and most of all I thank him for believing the ECB is the right vehicle through which to expand his patronage in cricket.

"I hope to give more details in the days and weeks ahead, but I can guarantee that everyone in the game - from playground to Test arena - will benefit from this deal."

The issue of sledging in modern-day cricket was also addressed by Clarke, who warned Test players must be role models.

He did not rule out the use of yellow cards "for repeat offences of sledges" in amateur cricket.


see also
Counties split on Twenty20 idea
29 Apr 08 |  Cricket
Cumbes favours new Twenty20 plan
25 Apr 08 |  Lancashire
England close to Twenty20 revamp
25 Apr 08 |  England
But is it really cricket?
22 Apr 08 |  South Asia


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