Sunday, 15 September 2013

Somerset Denied, But We CAN Fix This Broken System

Somerset players were left furious after the weather denied them the chance to compete against Essex for a place in Division 1 of next year's Women's Cricket County Championship.

(For those who are unaware how this works - there is a play-off between the Division 1 loser* and the Division 2 winner* to decide relegation/promotion.)

England Under-19 captain Sophie Luff posted on Twitter:
Absolutely fuming... Never felt so disappointed.. I would rather have the chance and lose than the feeling of never knowing what might have been.
Meanwhile, Fran Wilson railed against the "ridiculous rules".

I agree that the rules are ridiculous, but I think it is more complicated and nuanced than that!

The reason for the ridiculous rules, that load the dice against promotion/ relegation, is to try to reduce the need to re-allocate players if/when a team is relegated, to try to ensure that those competing for England places stay in D1. For example - Dani Wyatt is a Staffs player in D2, but has been "loaned" to Notts on a semi-permanent basis, so that she can play in D1.

(Following this train of thought, it would not therefore be a huge surprise if we did indeed see Luff in D1 next year, but she'll be wearing a different shirt... possibly even an Essex one - who knows!)

But why do we need to limit the re-allocation of players? After all, transfers happen in football all the time; and are pretty common in men's cricket these days.

The issue here is professionalism - or rather, the lack thereof. These cricketers can't just up-sticks and move from 'A' to 'B' - they need to find a job and somewhere to live - neither trivial undertakings in these tough times.

So what's the answer?

There is clearly no chance whatever of the County Championship going fully professional (or even fully semi-professional) in the near-future - it is several teams too heavy, and several thousand fans too light, to support that.

So, once again I find myself falling-back on the idea of turning the Super 4s into a proper competition, existing above the county level. This could be a fully semi-professional undertaking - i.e all players paid something - with an American Football-style "draft" system for bringing in new players.

With stable squads, proper (sponsored) uniforms, and a little marketing nous, such a competition could start to draw fans in, with an emotional attachment to "their" team - something that is largely non-existent in domestic women's cricket at the moment.

Ambitious? Yes! It's basically an Indian Premier League for women's cricket in England!

It might work... or it might not. But could it really be any worse than the situation we have at the moment?

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* And actually... it is even more complicated than that - the D2 winner is not the side that finishes top, but the side which wins the D2 play-off; and similarly the D1 loser is not the side which finishes bottom either, but the loser of a play-off between the bottom two sides there!

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