The Andy Nash interview (3/3)

Platinum Member Paul Baker asks: “The Club Statement on the proposed changes in the ECB Articles of Association to enable the new T20 competition says the ECB “have made clear assurances” with regard to protecting the CC, Royal London Cup and the Natwest T20 Blast. It also says, “we expect the ECB to continue to engage with us and protect the interests of ALL non-test match Clubs”. What is the status of the assurances? Are they in writing or minuted? If so can they be published on the Club website? Should it become necessary how could Somerset hold the ECB to its assurances and the Clubs’ expectations?”

Yes they are and they are going to be legally enshrined. As part of the new governance structure for the Supercharged, and other changes within the ECB constitution it will be legally enshrined and we will have no problem sharing that.

Dan Kingdom asks: “It is often said that this competition is not designed for members; it’s for new fans. But is it a wise move to alienate current fans just because there “might” be more fans out there to ‘replace’ them?”

No of course it’s not. And we would never wish to be disparaging to our fans. I hope that many of them will enjoy Supercharged – some will, some won’t – but you’ll remember as I do that going back to 2003 and the first game of professional T20 ever and there were those that said they would ‘never watch this rubbish’! It was an understandable reaction. Even Ian Botham was calling it ‘hit & grin Cricket’ for 2-3 years. No-one calls it that now.

Dan makes a great point about these “new” fans. I am struggling to understand where they are. Are there really people in Somerset who don’t come to Taunton at all – or very often? Likewise those in Gloucestershire who don’t go to Bristol at all or very often, who are suddenly going to become season-ticket holders to watch the Bristol Bashers or Western Warriors (or whatever the team will be called) hundreds of miles away?

That of course is the great hope. If you hear Straussy talk about this he is very passionate about it.
We hope all current members enjoy Supercharged but understand there are those that won’t. But we are looking at the 8 year-old kid with a single parent from a deprived part of Bridgwater who has never seen or played Cricket in their life. They come to Taunton as part of a birthday party and have an amazing time and, on the way out, get a leaflet and invite to play All Stars Cricket. He or she likes the look of it, goes on the web and finds their local Club in Bridgwater and registers to play All Stars Cricket. That is what has happened in Australia and Cricket is now the number one sport there.

Yes there are clear differences between here and there. 75% of their population live in the six big cities whereas 25% of the UK population live in our six big cities. We are much more dispersed and much more concentrated. And people do travel. Our fans travel wherever. I’m a Chelsea fan – I don’t go up every week but I do 4-5 times per season.

We also acknowledge there is no precedent here in UK sport for new brands being successful. In Football, which is incredibly tribal, there has been one new brand that has been successful which is the Milton Keynes Dons. Rugby doesn’t inspire us; Wales has introduced new brands with limited success whereas in England the Premier League has stuck with traditional brands and been a huge success.

That’s not very encouraging, is it?

As I say it is a risk.

I take everything on board here and am trying to be positive, but I personally would rather watch a Somerset team with eleven youngsters in the team than the Western Storm – or whatever they will be called – with global superstars.

We will still have the Blast of course, and I acknowledge the local derbies are getting bigger and bigger. Our games against Gloucester are always big affairs, as are the Roses battles that sell out regularly now. They never used to. The London derbies are also huge and the plan is that continues. Let us hope.

Matt Roller asks: “Can Andy offer any assurances that any South West franchise would play at least some games at Taunton? Are fans expected to travel to Cardiff or Bristol to watch games, or does he accept that some of the current fan base will be completely alienated from the new competition?”

Venues haven’t been selected yet but what the ECB are saying to us is that it will be the category A and B grounds that will be used. So we don’t know if Taunton or Bristol will feature in the first year. It might do, or they might say that the competition starts in the very biggest grounds first, as the Australians have done, and then move out from there.

The cynic in me surfaces again as I think this is being supported by those that benefit the most. I can see the big Test Match venues favouring this, especially considering the huge debts we discussed, and of course the majority of players will support with some decent cheques on the line. Are all players behind this?

Yes the players support it. The ECB have had 18 road show meetings and all are massively in favour and the players couldn’t be more positive.

And what about our players?

Yes they are all behind this. Marcus came out last year in support as did Chris Rogers. They all support it. They talk to Jos Buttler and he will make plain how much he enjoys playing in the big tournaments.

Say it is the Western Storm, will there be four Somerset players, four Gloucester players and three overseas to keep things even and ensure good support in whichever ground they play? Could Somerset dominate the team if there are better players available here than there?

Not sure yet. If we are going to see regional accumulation of sides then we are going to want to see representation from them all but whether an agreed number per team then I am not sure. What there will be will be a designated coaching team for each tournament and they will be disbanded after same as the Australian T20. They will all want to win it as there will be big prize money on offer.

Steve Nelson of Taunton Deane CC asked about attracting youngsters to games, particularly the 50-over format as there’s lots of talk about 5-8 year olds getting into the game. He asks; “Both of my kids love Cricket due to exposure (of) watching due to me and visits to the Deane. However apart from Stumpy and autographs at the end of games (which is great) they get bored at that age. How are SCCC going to grab them and keep them as my memories at that age were playing on the outfield using a letter in advertising as wickets after games or between innings whilst Dad had a pint or two! Indoor school free coaching during games with some of the squad who were not playing? Give-aways like colouring games (etc.) for younger ones? We need them to love going to the ground for the experience not entirely the Cricket at that age!” So should match day be more family friendly?

He makes some excellent points. One of the problems we have with the Blast is we are trying to make it more of a family occasion but we do get stag parties turning up and having a beer fest. This will put off some families especially if they are as rowdy as the Glamorgan lot two years ago. But look at the Friday night games which are like a massive party. Games get sold out and it is probably not somewhere you want to bring your kids. You might see with Supercharged that alcohol is priced out so people aren’t going to drink too much of it. Soft drinks maybe just 50 per pint.

Last thoughts Andy, and any message for Somerset supporters?

We have got to be positive. Somerset hasn’t gone through all this by being negative and naysayers. We know how to look after ourselves but we have to be positive about the future of the game. And when we have sat down with members and had the sort of chat that you and I have had they get it. You can enjoy both the Blast and Supercharged, let’s not have the straw mentality of just one or the other.
Cricket has to overcome this participation issue as well as the financial problems and Supercharged would appear – there’s no certainty – that it will be the best vehicle to achieve that.

At Somerset we will put our shoulder behind it because we want it to be a success. We want to see Cricket in the south-west energised by what it can do.

I would like to thank Andy Nash for his time to explain some of the rationale behind the latest developments regarding the proposed new T20 tournament.