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Old 10th June 2013, 11:22   #1
paulsre
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How would you try to increase attendances at county cricket matches?

One of the targets in the recently-released ECB Strategic Plan is:

"Increase attendances at at county cricket matches by 200,000."

So, how would you go about achieving that?

Here are some ideas; they're not necessarily original, and I'm not even sure if some of them would even have a positive effect.

1. Well, the easiest and possibly best way to increase attendances is a very simple one: give away free tickets/vouchers or throw the doors open for free admission.

One idea, which I believe Sussex piloted this year with great success, is to make one game free - in this case it was the first CB40 game of the season, and I believe it was done in conjunction with a sponsor (who I guess helped bankroll it in return for major publicity at the match).

I definitely think making the first Pro50 game of the season next year free would be a worthwhile idea for some counties.

2. Carrying on with the theme of the Pro50, I think this is going to be a hard sell for the counties next year. A 1.45pm start was much more spectator-friendly; now they are going to have to start at around 11-11.30 (or 2.30ish if they are day-night games) and I am unsure how many of these matches will be at the weekend.

I definitely think some of the counties should think about taking some or all of these games to the outgrounds, where there would be more local interest in the fixture.

3. Decent facilities for ALL spectators. A lot of clubs have already made great strides in this, but not all. As I read on another forum, the idea of a burger van being enough to sustain people belongs in the past.

Open up all areas of the ground to all paying customers at County Championship matches. Hiding away your best facilities makes no sense at all. For example, why should the only real ale pumps, or only restaurant, be in an area restricted to members? It makes absolutely no commercial sense.

4. A controversial one that's already had a mixed response - day/night Championship cricket, or at least a later start. Personally, I'm at bit sceptical about this one, but it might have some appeal at some grounds, only in the high summer.

5. Forget about silly gimmicks for t20 games. At their worst, they just make the sport look dorky. People come to watch the match, or at least to enjoy being at the match. Stage it at a decent time, with decent facilities, and they will come and spend money.

6. Now a schedule, competition set-up and fixture plan has been set for 2014-2017 has been set, STICK WITH IT. Forget about dreaming up hair-brained schemes: domestic cricket has been tinkered with far too much over the past 20 years.

7. Finally, it's up to clubs, members, fans and journalists to talk up county cricket, not knock it down. Some journalists are very guilty of this. If the supposed lovers of the game are saying that a match or competition is worthless or second-rate, then what will the wider public think?
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Old 10th June 2013, 11:40   #2
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One of the dilemmas here is that members are generally a funny lot. You therefore need to be careful with schemes that erode their benefits, even though they make perfect sense! So, pricing to attract the casual fan may make membership less attractive and have a detrimental effect on attendances. Opening up the whole ground may have a similar effect, although I have been banging o nabout this for ages.

Generally re pricing, I think 10 would attract the casual fan, but need to be careful that it doesnt affect the regulars
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Old 10th June 2013, 11:43   #3
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Number 7 is the most important point here, I think. You can make county cricket as cheap and accessible as you like but, if the product isn't deemed attractive, the people will still not come. There's been far too much Ratnerising of the county game, and a lot of it from those who actually owe their livings to it. And, as guilty as I've been of losing my evangelical spirit in recent years, it's also down to us supporters to encourage our friends and colleagues to come along (it's our game after all, not the ECB's or the counties').

And, on this front, I think I've helped to recruit somebody to the cause. Went along with him to his first county match at Lord's last week and he responded with "I might have found a new hobby".
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Old 10th June 2013, 11:53   #4
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Originally Posted by sweatysock View Post
One of the dilemmas here is that members are generally a funny lot. You therefore need to be careful with schemes that erode their benefits, even though they make perfect sense! So, pricing to attract the casual fan may make membership less attractive and have a detrimental effect on attendances. Opening up the whole ground may have a similar effect, although I have been banging o nabout this for ages.

Generally re pricing, I think 10 would attract the casual fan, but need to be careful that it doesnt affect the regulars
It's a good point. Isn't one of the prime rules of business something about looking after your regular customers first?

This would also apply with innovations like day/night Championship cricket. Even if this did usher in a few new fans, they would barely be compensating for the loss of regulars who, for one reason or other, would decline to attend such matches. The Kent v Glamorgan experiment two seasons ago saw a considerable fall in attendance and hardly anyone new paying at the gate. Members may be a funny lot but if they're paying in the region of 200 each up front every year then that, in the eyes of county treasurers, is a big license to remain funny.
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Old 10th June 2013, 23:22   #5
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How is a 1:45 start more spectator friendly? With an 11am start my family could drive 2.5 hours there without having to leave too early and still get somewhere close to home to have a pub dinner as many places stop serving around 8pm. Now they get home after 10pm. Moving back to 11am might mean the go to a few more games.
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Old 11th June 2013, 09:15   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Minor Maggie View Post
How is a 1:45 start more spectator friendly? With an 11am start my family could drive 2.5 hours there without having to leave too early and still get somewhere close to home to have a pub dinner as many places stop serving around 8pm. Now they get home after 10pm. Moving back to 11am might mean the go to a few more games.
I wasn't talking about the finishing time - I means the much earlier start time to accommodate the extra 20 overs in a day from next year.

Of course, I don't even know if they will start at 11. They may choose to start at 12, which would see the matches finish at around the same time as now.

I agree that I think the current 1.45 start is neither here nor there and sees the YB40 matches finish rather late in the day.
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Old 11th June 2013, 11:27   #7
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Day/night cricket is only of use for people living/working locally to the ground.

For a county like Yorkshire you'd be travelling to Headingley during the rush hour if you came after work .. & the M62/M1 regularly 'lock up' at this time .. & Leeds is a nightmare.

Its also no good finishing at 9-10pm if you then have to drive for an hour (or even more for Yorkshire members travellling from Middlesbrough etc) to get home. Plus quite a few people use public transport ... its possible to get to a ground for about 11am from anywhere in the county (I know people who do)... but these people wouldn't be able to be home after a day nighter.
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Old 11th June 2013, 11:41   #8
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i don't think the on day attendances are that much of a problem tbh, when you consider in other countries they cant even sell out their national teams one day matches.

I think all the counties probably require different strategies more than one universal solution for all the counties. One thing i will always argue though is that 90% who turn up for one day matches who then do not turn up for four day cricket are below the age of 40. Therefore, perhaps the only way to solve the problem is enticing this younger audience to go to four day cricket.

i guess ways which you could do this include:
1. in student areas such as durham, yorkshire, nottingham, london have drinks offers etc at the bars in the ground.
2. some sort of free coaching incentive if you go to a certain amount of four day matches.
3. the dreaded music
4. some sort of penalty for a poor run rate....i know!

i guess the difficult comes in keeping your current members whilst also trying to attract new younger ones at the same time.
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Old 11th June 2013, 14:17   #9
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Scrap memberships and charge 2 a day entry for everyone instead
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Old 13th June 2013, 22:05   #10
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Well, I'm pleased to see that Kent are making an effort. Today at the St Lawrence, I arrived to hear the shrieking soprano cheers of around 300 primary school children, all waving flags, all very excited. I believe some sort of dirt cheap admission price was agreed and posters and flags were provided.

Rob Key in particular seemed highly invigorated by this event, running along the front row of kids to dispense high-fives and signing everything placed in front of him. It rubbed off on his fielding too - on several occasions, he stalked in while the bowler was running up, with a mock-horror expression and funny hand signals.

At lunch, the grand old outfield was awash with red, purple, blue and black uniforms. Games of kwik cricket were played, as were tag and general mad running around. Not a football in sight - hurrah!!!

I bought an ice cream just after tea and asked the ice cream man if he'd had a bumper day. He replied that he hadn't been permitted to sell to any of the kids - childhood obesity rules or something. A bit harsh but then the kids had already enjoyed an incredible treat I never had in my primary school days.

Utterly marvellous.
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Old 14th June 2013, 00:08   #11
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Is there a problem with attracting youth audience ultimately? More on weekends and day/night would help I think, more priice differentials too- basically what was said in op. Ultimately though, one man and a dog, quite often early season especially- on a cold grey day. It doesn't have a 'cool' factor, does it? I know people who are into cricket- but very in my experience hard to sell the idea of the 4 day County game to them. Been to it once or twice with a couple of mates but that's about it.
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Old 14th June 2013, 09:25   #12
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It doesn't have a 'cool' factor, does it?
This is the crucial factor. Watching a day of county cricket isn't expensive in the big scheme of things, and most people can wangle a day or two off or a Saturday if they really want to. But, as I've said many times, what puts people off county cricket is county cricket itself. Like real ale and bluegrass, the County Championship is a truly wonderful thing, but because its popular image portrays it as old, uncool and a bit weird, millions lose out on its perennial pleasures.
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Old 15th June 2013, 10:14   #13
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Typically the ECB have shot themselves in the foot before they even start on this objective, IMHO for the following reasons:

1) The 'Sunday League' games will now be 20 overs too long. Spectators really like the 40 over format because it starts after lunch and you can get the kids home in good time for bed before school on Monday morning.

2) The Counties are only ever going to discount or offer significant numbers of free tickets for 4 day games. With T20 on Fridays from next year these will hardly ever be at weekends.

3) Extending T20 out of its June/July pocket will inevitably mean it clashes with more football.

And let's not even start about no cricket being on free to view TV...
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Old 17th June 2013, 20:22   #14
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have a live dolphinarium by half filling the grounds with water during the closed season.
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Old 17th June 2013, 21:22   #15
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1. Play an extra couple of rounds of some meaningless one-day comp. Even though they'll devalue the competition a few extra dead rubber games means you should be able to meet your ECB target even when the average crowd drops.

2. Abolish proftable festivals at out grounds that reach other sections of your potential fan-base.

3. Sign some crappy but high profile Aussie for T20 who when they go for runs will go for runs really quickly instead of addressing your county championship issues. You can also re-sign your T20 mercenary even though they'll miss most of the season (not actually) playing IPL so they can feature on your marketing brochure.

4. Make County Championship cricket more like 20 overs cricket. Visionaries like Paul Grayson are already piloting this whereby a team gets bowled out in 15 overs or less, rather than the more normal 100+ overs on a flat pitch in sunshine.

5. Liven it up by putting a betting kiosk near the boundary so players can pop in and bet on brackets. Remember no-one goes to the Races because they want to watch it.

6. Lobby government to increase numbers of teachers and reduce the retirement age.

7. Ensure your sport isn't perceived as common - this can be achieved by hiding it away on a subscription channel so that there's no live free-to-air coverage. This should ensure that it's only played in private schools and keep the riff-raff out of the England team

Quote:
Originally Posted by Summer of '77 View Post
Well, I'm pleased to see that Kent are making an effort. Today at the St Lawrence, I arrived to hear the shrieking soprano cheers of around 300 primary school children, all waving flags, all very excited. I believe some sort of dirt cheap admission price was agreed and posters and flags were provided.

Rob Key in particular seemed highly invigorated by this event, running along the front row of kids to dispense high-fives and signing everything placed in front of him. It rubbed off on his fielding too - on several occasions, he stalked in while the bowler was running up, with a mock-horror expression and funny hand signals.

At lunch, the grand old outfield was awash with red, purple, blue and black uniforms. Games of kwik cricket were played, as were tag and general mad running around. Not a football in sight - hurrah!!!

I bought an ice cream just after tea and asked the ice cream man if he'd had a bumper day. He replied that he hadn't been permitted to sell to any of the kids - childhood obesity rules or something. A bit harsh but then the kids had already enjoyed an incredible treat I never had in my primary school days.

Utterly marvellous.
Rob Key.... Ice cream....
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Old 18th June 2013, 10:00   #16
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Simple sum, surely?

Increase number of counties by (200,000/average season gate per county)
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Old 19th June 2013, 17:13   #17
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Yep... Have a pyramid with lower divisions on a pro am basis funded by sky money and their participation in t20. Lets bring first class cricket to Cornwall, Norfolk, Staffs etc. to get those attendances up and bring the game to the masses. Sadly it isn't going to happen.... But I would let the minor counties have a t20 cup with the finalists entering the competition 'proper'.

Alternatively... Do what Warwickshire do. Last year they had some of the highest attendances in the country. To celebrate they increased ticket prices to 20 a day on the gate. With the champions trophy, I can't remember when the last game at Edgbaston was.... And it seems like ages to the next.....
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Old 19th June 2013, 19:01   #18
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Yep... Have a pyramid with lower divisions on a pro am basis funded by sky money and their participation in t20. Lets bring first class cricket to Cornwall, Norfolk, Staffs etc. to get those attendances up and bring the game to the masses. Sadly it isn't going to happen.... But I would let the minor counties have a t20 cup with the finalists entering the competition 'proper'.
Indeed.

The thing is, that what you describe - "a pyramid with lower divisions on a pro am basis funded by sky money" - already effectively exists - the Minor Counties Championship.

Acutely arcane (I really must try - maybe next month - to attend a Minor Counties fixture to discover actually what does go on at them), completely ignored by the mainstream cricket media and attracting only drops of coverage in the dustiest corners of the internet, of little or no interest even to most ardent fans of the county game and sustained by only the devoted few, it seems to exist mainly as a platform for cricketers to test themselves - in front of an audience of themselves - at a level above league cricket.

From what I can gather the clubs do receive a reasonable sum of ECB money, which is why they are even able to pay players, even though (I imagine, as it's hard even to find photos of matches) most games must be played out in front of an audience that would make Grace Road on a Thursday in late September look busy in comparison.

The one "bridge" that exists between them and the First Class game - the Unicorns - is to be narrowed from next year, with the Unicorns first team playing probably only one "major" game a year.

As you rightly say, surely it would make sense to try and raise their profile - some form of participation in the t20 cup being ideal. Their erstwhile participation in the Gillette Cup drew good crowds to these outposts and some welcome attention, but it was seen fit to scrap this and cast them back into obscurity.
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Old 19th June 2013, 21:03   #19
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Are the minors really the tier between FC and league cricket? How would they compare with 2nd team county or premier league club in, say, Yorkshire?
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Old 20th June 2013, 05:46   #20
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Are the minors really the tier between FC and league cricket? How would they compare with 2nd team county or premier league club in, say, Yorkshire?
Well, "officially", yes they are.

How they would compare, I have no idea. But the Unicorns A ("formerly The Minor Counties", according to the Second XI Annual) field a side in the 2nd XI Trophy and t20 and they seem to win some lose some, so you can draw your own conclusions from that.
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