Essex Cricket suggest localised County Championship to ECB in wake of Covid-19

By Jordan Camp
April 16 2020, 09.30

The birthplace of radio, home to Britain’s oldest town and Britpop legends Blur – Essex’s place in the history books is well established. 

But last summer in Chelmsford – the county’s only city – Essex County Cricket Club wrote their own chapter of history when they became the first team to win the T20 Blast and County Championship double.

Anthony McGrath’s side had their eyes set on retaining their titles with the 130th edition of the County Championship due to commence on April 12.

However, the ECB’s decision to postpone all forms of cricket until May 28 in line with government Covid-19 guidelines has thrown the future of the County Championship up in the air – not to mention the future for all the players and majority of non-playing staff who were placed on furlough leave until further notice on April 8.

If and when there is a resumption however, Essex have put forward the idea of a one-off localised – and condensed – version of the competition.

Commercial manager Darrell Fox said: “I think everyone involved is just keen to get any form of cricket on this summer and to make sure we are able to do so in a safe environment. 

“We’ve suggested to the ECB about doing a localised county championship fixture. 

“Maybe doing it between Surrey, Kent, Middlesex and ourselves, rather than going to Durham and Lancashire or something like that, it’s very difficult at the moment but I think the future for county cricket is strong.

“The other option we have is to extend the season into October, all of us are working towards getting cricket on which I think should be the priority.”

Head of sponsorships Greg Larkin was also optimistic we will see cricket this summer, but admitted a cloud of uncertainty hangs over what the various tournaments will look like.

He said: “There could be an opportunity to have a different league structure this season. 

“Having a north, south, west and east County Championship division so we would only be playing clubs in our area, I would say that is a good option.

“They could do it as a cup structure (rather than a league structure) and whoever wins their division would play against each other in a semi-final and final match.

“I see that as a good idea that may be worth looking at.”

Since the pandemic spread across the country and forced a nationwide lockdown, cricket operations director Dan Feist has seen his role change from an array of social engagements, to managing the support and recovery and finally to helping the club return to cricket as soon as possible.

He said: “The number one thing we have to take into account is what the tune of the nation is and what it’s looking for and requiring which will lift spirits and bring the community together. 

“There would certainly be some interest (in a localised County Championship) because of the local derby side of it.

“If we have an opportunity, even if it is just five or six weeks of cricket I think that is quite an important thing.

“It is such a staple of our culture over here: to have a summer with no cricket will be quite devastating so hopefully we get to a point where we have something.”

Despite everyone within the club keen to keep batting, Feist emphasised the importance of the traditional value of the competition.

“This is a very historic traditional competition that people have fought and worked so hard for over a number of years to win.

“So, I think we have to make sure we keep that history and tradition against what it means to win the County Championship. 

“It might just be that this year it’s some showcase games that have a localised format, instead of trying to push through a big County Championship, which then doesn’t feel like it had the worth of other years which could then be potentially dangerous.

“I think you just need to evaluate all the knock-on domino effects to any decision that is made.”

An updated decision on the 2020 County Championship is yet to be announced but Fox revealed all teams are constantly in contact with the ECB.

He said: “Every couple of days there are virtual meetings between our chief executive and chairman with their counterparts from other clubs and a representative from the ECB. 

“We know there is going to be an announcement within the next ten days.”

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