In 2001 I put forward a plan to improve interest in and attendance at County Championship matches to the then Chief Executive of the ECB Tim Lamb. The proposal was to allow anyone who purchased a ticket for an England game in England to present that ticket stub at any County Championship match to gain free admission to a day’s play. Tickets for Test matches, ODIs and international T20s would qualify.
The beauty of the scheme was that it involved no cost at best or negligible cost at worst to either the ECB or the individual counties. The spectator would simply turn up at their chosen game and hand in the ticket stub. There would be no significant cost to the county because all the most they would have to do would be to count the number of stubs to allow a judgement to be made as to how successful the scheme was. As the stub is produced automatically by the normal ticket design for England matches no extra cost would arise there.
Hundreds of thousands watch England play cricket in England every year so there would potentially be a very large number who could use their free entry tickets. Many probably would because entry to Championship games is becoming increasingly expensive and people find it hard to resist something which is free, especially if it is expensive.
Many people who would not normally dream of going to a Championship match would probably be brought into grounds. Once there they might like what they see and come back as paying customers. Even regular Championship watchers might be persuaded to go more often as paying customers.
But even if attendances only rose when the free entry ticket stubs were used, that would be a benefit for it would increase takings for the caterers and club merchandise. Moreover, larger crowds would also create a better atmosphere and that would make the games more attractive to spectators, broadcasters and sponsors.
Sadly, although Tim Lamb showed interest, nothing ultimately came of my attempts to persuade him to put the proposal to the ECB. Arguably the scheme has even more merit now that it did in 2001 because of the ever greater dominance of international cricket over domestic first class cricket which is struggling throughout the world. What I am proposing for England could be used in any Test playing country to revive interest in their domestic first class competitions. It is vital for the long-term health of world cricket that domestic first class cricket is preserved because it is that which is the conveyor belt producing players for international cricket.
Would the plan work? Most probably because of the numbers involved and the lure of something free. It is at least worth a trial for a few years for it would cost next to nothing to run the scheme .