Colin Graves says the ECB’s new 100-ball-a-side tournament will definitely go ahead because young people “are just not attracted to cricket”.
The concept, which could feature innings of 15 traditional six-ball overs and a final 10-ball over, has been drawn up, according to the ECB chairman, because the sport as it stands is not “attracting the audiences”.
“If it was we would not have that issue,” Graves told BBC Sport. “The younger generation, whether you like it or not, are just not attracted to cricket. In all the work, surveys and research we have done, the younger generation want something different.
“They want more excitement, they want it shorter and simpler to understand. Those are the things we have learnt for this new competition and that is what we have to make it.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Graves also denied that compensation payments had been made or promised to any of the first-class counties and warned that Surrey, the richest club in the country and the one with the best record of short-format ticket sales, would be stripped of their rights to host games in the new tournament if they do not demonstrate their commitment to it.
But it was, perhaps, Graves’ comments on The Hundred that were most intriguing. Asked whether “The Hundred tournament was set in stone”, Graves replied “Yes. As far as we’re concerned – and the ECB board is concerned – the new competition board is in place to virtually launch this tournament.
“We’ll build it and we’ll work with the players because we want them to be involved. From the players’ point of view, this is bringing in an extra 8m worth of salaries into county cricketers. That’s what the tournament will generate for them.”
Reacting to the interview on Twitter, the PCA chairman Daryl Mitchell stated that Graves should “probably let Tom Harrison [ECB chief executive] know then. That’s not what he told us last week.”
Graves also raised some eyebrows with his insistence there had been no compensation payments to counties in return for them giving up their hopes of hosting Test cricket.
“No payments have been made to counties at all,” he said. “Full stop. I floated an idea to four or five county chairmen that I would have had to take to the board for it to go any further. No payments have been made. No payments have been promised.”
Those comments would appear to contradict the Glamorgan accounts for the previous financial year. They state: “Following discussions with ECB the Club decided not to apply to host Test matches during the 2020 to 2024 period in return for a compensation payment of 2.5m.”
The ECB has also previously accepted there should be an external review into the payments.
Meanwhile, in a separate interview with The Telegraph, Graves warned Surrey “they have to be 100 percent committed” if they are to host games in the new competition. His words follow the resignation of Surrey chairman, Richard Thompson, from the ECB board in protest at the organisation’s corporate governance, and comments from the club’s chief executive, Richard Gould, that the lack of clarity around the new competition was in danger of rendering it “a laughing stock”.
“If anyone thinks that it is a laughing stock then I totally disagree,” Graves said. “We chose eight venues that we thought were right for the new competition. We offered them (Surrey) the opportunity to be one of those venues. If they don’t want to be that venue then all they have to do is tell us. I have got three venues who are desperate to have it.
“We are not forcing anybody to have it. If they don’t want it, fine. But if they do want it, they have to be 100 percent committed. People who make those sort of comments need to make sure they are totally on board. If they are not on board then fine we will go somewhere else.
“If the venue is not behind the competition it is going to be difficult to get it off the ground. If they are behind it we stand a great chance of making it a big success. The other venues are totally behind it, and I mean totally behind it. They have not questioned anything.”
Graves also described the resignation of Thompson and former Somerset chairman, Andy Nash, as “hurtful and surprising.” Nash, too, resigned citing corporate governance standards that fell “well short” of acceptable standards and suggested Graves was attempting to promote eight counties as “the first among equals”.
“It was hurtful and surprising,” Graves said. “The governance at the ECB is far better than it has ever been. We have been checked by two institutions over the last year about what we were aiming towards with an independent board and both of those came out positive. Andy Nash was part of all those discussions. The new governance was voted last December and went through 41-0. Andy Nash and Richard Thompson, who were on the board, voted for it last September.
“What has changed since then? The talk about ulterior motives and that we just want eight or nine big international grounds and that is where we are going to concentrate, well, it has never been mentioned, is not on the agenda, not on my radar. If that is what we wanted why are we giving each county 1.3m a year from 2020? That is making them sustainable.”