Surrey director of cricket Alec Stewart reveals concerns over proposed city-based franchise tournament

 
Ross McLean
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Surrey v Leicestershire - LV County Championship - Division Two
Stewart doubts whether the ECB fully know all the details of the proposed tournament (Source: Getty)

Former England captain Alec Stewart has expressed concern over proposals for a new franchise-based domestic Twenty20 tournament and questioned the clarity of the plans put forward by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

The ECB last week outlined further details of the eight-team competition, set to begin in 2020, which the 18 first-class counties are now to undertake a postal vote upon.

Cricket bosses hope the new city-based event will prove a lucrative rival to established franchise competitions such as the Indian Premier League and Big Bash, and attract a new, untapped audience to the game.

Read more: Always hurdles but T20 franchise system is clear vision

Stewart, director of cricket at Surrey, has his reservations and believes other formats of the game may be relegated in importance, whilst he considers a vote on an unknown commodity as potentially perilous.

“I still don’t think the ECB know exactly how it is going to work. That’s the biggest issue,” said Stewart.

“They’re asking counties to vote for something that perhaps won’t be the finished product when they have to vote, and that’s pretty dangerous. The term the chief executive [Tom Harrison] used was ‘leap of faith’.

“But you have to go with it, there are financial penalties if you don’t. We fought it but the club accepts that it has lost that battle so we will now buy into what is going to happen going forward.

“We can sit here and be cynical but if there’s a new audience out there, fantastic. With it running just as the Premier League starts again, it will be interesting if people don’t turn up at Chelsea and come here instead.”

Surrey skipper Gareth Batty cited the tribal nature of sports fans within this country as a possible hurdle to a city-based concept, but also warned that should the project fail, domestic cricket could feel the brunt for many years.

“The ECB have a huge responsibility to the game,” said Batty. “If it bombs out, I think cricket will be damaged for a decade or more. It’s a massive decision that people need to get right because our game will suffer.”

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