Seizing the Moment: a blueprint for Reform of World Cricket Ian Preston University College London

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(b) Population, income and city sizes
A successful international club competition will have to satisfy two essential requirements- it must be small enough to ensure that the top stars are regularly pitted against one another, and it must be spread among the largest cricketing nations in order to ensure the maximum degree of fan interest, indeed partisanship. Most cricket nations struggle if say, their top three batsmen or top three bowlers are injured - suggesting that there are probably few more than a hundred international cricket stars able to compete at the highest level. Assuming that teams require squads of at least fifteen players, this suggests the supply of international standard cricketers would support a league of no more than eight to ten teams. A league of this size would bring the top players consistently into opposition with one another, and ensure that almost every match contained some exciting confrontations. In essence, the number of clubs should more or less replicate the number of competitive cricketing nations, which again implies somewhere in the region of eight to ten teams.
One weakness of the World Series Cricket was its location in Australia- it was viewed by the other cricketing nations as a largely Australian affair, even if the teams themselves were essentially national teams. In part this reflected the broadcasting arrangements of the competition, which limited the resale of the championship internationally (with digital TV there can be little doubt that the rights could be sold to somebody in the UK, for instance, even if the dominant broadcasters were not interested). To draw the analogy with soccer again, the Italian Serie A is very successful and widely considered the strongest league in the world because of the presence of so many foreign stars, but its viewership figures outside of Italy are negligible compared to genuinely international tournaments such as the Champions League.
We suggest that there are two options for geographical organisation of an international league.

  1. Cities: Adopting a city based club structure might maximise the interest of a concentrated population. There may be a lesson here from the history of soccer. The authorities of the English Football Association in the nineteenth century envisaged the development of soccer along county cricket lines and established county associations. The fact that club football proved much stronger may in part be due to its foundation on concentrated urban support.

  2. Regions: Basing clubs around broadly defined regions would allow teams to play at a variety of grounds, picking up revenue by playing occasional matches in areas of lesser support and avoiding feelings of exclusion in areas that would not otherwise have teams.

Given these dimensions, the problem is to decide the location of the clubs. In practice this could be achieved through a franchise system and allowing locations (or entrepreneurs adopting a particular location) to bid. However, since the value of each franchise depends on who else is admitted, it might require a complex and possibly fallible auction design to internalise the impact on other franchises of victory by particular other locations.

In cricket, more than in any sport, the financial backing for the game derives either from very large but very poor populations or from relatively small but very rich populations. Table 1, showing the population and gross domestic product per head for the five biggest cricket nations illustrates the point.
Table 1: Population, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and GDP per head for the five largest cricket nations (1999)



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