COVID has forced sports and leagues to consider changes to their format. For the ECB, this has meant the introduction of the Bob Willis Trophy in place of the traditional County Championship.
The County Championship for 2020 was abandoned as a result of the pandemic. However, on July 7th, Counties voted that first-class cricket would still take place this year within the August-October window.
Instead of the traditional 4-day divisional format, a replacement competition - The Bob Willis Trophy – was put forward. This involves three regional groups of counties, each playing five first-class matches, prior to a final at Lord's.
The format is exactly what the county system needs. For decades, the four-day game has been struggling. Viewing figures are low and the average age of fans is high. Really high.
While we can’t expect to see a boost in attendance, for this year at least. This new format has the potential to create a far more engaging product for cricket fans. Fewer, more important games, focused on local rivalries. And the same could be said for the reduced MLB season that was proposed (but has since been postponed).
The County Championship is the support structure for the pinnacle of English cricket. With players such as Dom Sibley and Zac Crawley recent beneficiaries. The creation of a centrepiece event that celebrates the longer format could provide an event greater platform for emerging talent to get a taste for Test match cricket going forward.
While COVID has had a hugely destructive impact across the sports industry, it has also forced governing bodies to adapt. Though not much positive can be taken from the summer of 2020, the changes to formats – from the County Championship to the MLB – (if retained) could be seen as a thin silver lining.
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