It was inevitable that there would be winners and losers in the ECB’s major match allocation – announced yesterday – for the four years 2013-2016, given the number of international grounds compared with the volume of cricket available. The clear winner was Trent Bridge which won three high-profile Tests hosting Australia (twice) and India.
The other surprise winner was The Oval, already guaranteed a Test and an ODI every year under its Long Term Staging Agreement (LTSA), increasing its allocation of one-day cricket. This gave the Rose Bowl only one ODI and Bristol, which looked the likely winner of that, got nothing.
This is likely to prove contentious; there is already a shortage of major matches to go round and a number of ground owners are financially stretched. Surrey’s LTSA, the terms of which have never been revealed, has long been a point of contention among the counties, who feel that it has given Surrey an unfair financial advantage. Why does Surrey get an increased allocation, which it did not need, at the expense of other grounds that do need that allocation?
The ECB will point to the independence of the Major Match Group under Bill Morris, which made the recommendations and that the allocation was made against non financial criteria; Surrey could not use its financial muscle on this occasion (unlike when it comes to signing players). Also, because of competition law, Surrey could not be excluded from the process
The financial impact of the recommendations was not a consideration for the Major Match Group. While there will be relief and celebrations at Trent Bridge and Old Trafford, others will be running assessments today, to decide if they can meet their future financial commitments, such has been the level of debt incurred in building new international match venues in recent years.
Neil Davidson is chairman of The Cricketer