LONDON: England Test captain Joe Root believes the new planned city-based Twenty20 event must be shown on free-to-air television if it is to achieve its aim of attracting a new generation of cricket fans.
The England and Wales Cricket Board announced Monday their intention to press ahead with a new eight-team Twenty20 event, which they aim to launch in 2020.
ECB chiefs, having seen the success of the Indian Premier League and especially Australia’s city-based Big Bash Twenty20 tournaments, believe they need something similar to help them reach family audiences and encourage children to become fans of the sport.
However, the proposal has proved hugely controversial as, if enacted, it will mean that for the first time there is a major domestic cricket tournament in England that does not feature all 18 first-class counties.
“I think it would be a very good idea,” Root told BBC Radio 5 live as he gave his backing to the as yet unnamed tournament, which officials expect to run alongside the existing 18-county Twenty20 Blast.
“You look at other competitions in the world and they have been successful,” the Yorkshireman added.
The 2005 Ashes was the last home Test series to be broadcast live on free-to-air television in Britain, with many pundits claiming the switch to satellite coverage has meant cricket has become less ‘visible’ to the public in its birthplace.
“It would make a huge difference,” said Root. “The coverage we are given by (satellite broadcaster) Sky is exceptional. They are fantastic, and continue to be fantastic.
“It is very important the public are given an opportunity to see cricket at a national level, on free-to-air TV. It will be interesting to see how things pan out and what decisions are made.”
Root’s comments came as The Times reported that the BBC, Britain’s national public free-to-air broadcaster, had met with ECB officials over the possibility of televising live cricket for the first time since 1998 by showing matches in the new tournament.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan, who had previously said it was a problem for English cricket that fellow Yorkshire batsman Root could often walk down streets without being stopped for his autograph, also gave his support to the proposed new event.
“Cricket in this country needs something that changes the way we talk and think about the game,” Vaughan said.
“Sixty percent of people that go to the Big Bash are families, people going to cricket for the first time, and I think that is where the ECB are looking.
“They took the game from the fifth favourite sport in the country five years ago to the first. They have improved attendances by 71 percent in that time. The Big Bash has worked remarkably.
“Every one can see every ball of the Big Bash. Cricket is there for everyone to see. I love the thought and talk of terrestrial partners and the game seen. But I don’t think that is the be-all and end-all. I think it is important, but I think cricket has to do so much more.”