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OPINION: The ECB Hundred – To be or not to be?

Is the Hundred - Act 3 Scene 1 - of crickets revamp...

The new 100-ball-tournament will see eight teams placed in eight cities across England and Wales. Much has been said around the new tournament with the Independents Jonathan Liew saying ‘The Hundred is not to create a new sporting product, but to repackage and force-feed us an existing one.’ Lambasted by many, smaller counties are set to lose out financially, but how can you completely judge something that is yet to be seen?

The tournament will take place over a five-week period next year. It is a big change to the way cricket is played the world over – 10 balls to be bowled from each end to complete an over. In what is a massive change from tradition a bowler will be able to bowl either five or 10 balls of the over, up to a limit of 20 per innings.

Implications have been felt across the nation, with counties such as Somerset, Worcestershire and Sussex who regularly sell out their grounds for T20 Blast fixtures, unable to host teams. The warning signs are there for the smaller counties as those who host teams could become ‘Super-Counties’.

Despite these fears, counties voted 17 to one in favour of the Hundred, with only Surrey going against. Many suspected Surrey would vote against due to their financial power and the fact they may not be one of the lucky receivers of a franchise despite their infrastructure.

Eight sides will feature in the tournament with the ECB announcing the locations: Old Trafford, Trent Bridge, Headingley, Edgbaston, Sophia Gardens, The Oval, Lord’s and The Ageas Bowl. Placing the franchises in cities makes financial sense to the ECB. These places have the largest grounds with the population density to fill them. But the impact that may be felt by counties such as Derbyshire and Leicestershire is massive. The ticket sales that the current T20 Blast provides are an essential source of income.

The ECB have counteracted this by offering a pay-out to each county not awarded a franchise. Now this may seem like an excellent deal for the smaller clubs as their accounts flood with money but in the long run they could lose out. Cricket in its new format has the potential to boom. Take the IPL and Big Bash for example, both franchise based and relatively new. These tournaments have boomed financially in recent years . The Hundred have already agreed a TV deal worth £1.1 billion with Sky Sports and the BBC. This will allow the BBC to show 10 of the 36 fixtures and Sky the rest.

The financial benefits that hosting a match day holds must be considered. If a county is to miss out on beers sold, the taxis, restaurants and hotels booked along with the corporate boxes and advertising sold, is it enough to offer them just one big pay out?

The key concept that has pushed the 100-ball-tournament forward is the time limit that can be met. Games are completed in two and a half hours, which broadcasters see as an essential element in promoting the game to a new audience, while also maintaining the old.

Is the Hundred to be a success or not to be? The implications are yet to be seen, we will have to wait till 2020 for the full outcome. But what we do know is that many of the professional players, pundits and spectators the world across are opposed to the new format.

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