The Sussex boss says the ECB’s proposals are as unworkable as the current schedule in regional cricket


Proposed changes for English cricket are “needed by the game” but “unnecessary”, says Sussex County Cricket Club chairman Jon Filby.

The England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) high-performance review, led by Sir Andrew Strauss, suggests a number of changes to improve Test cricket.

Number of regional tournament and Twenty20 Blast matches could be cut

“Even Strauss’ high performance review is impossible when it comes to county cricket,” Filby said.

“Looking at it through a high-performance lens, it’s what the game needs. But we’re not just looking at it through a high-performance lens,” he told BBC 5 Live Sports Extra.

“We’re looking at it through a financial and commercial lens. We’re looking at it through the eyes of our members who have cricket that they want and we’re looking at it from a number of angles that aren’t high performance.”

The new plans would reduce a First Division to six teams and offer windows for the One-Day Cup, T20 Blast and Hundred.

They come after England’s disappointing Ashes campaign, with Australia winning 4-0.

How would the new schedule create better players?

Former England international Steven Finn told the BBC he believes the recommendations could lead to an improvement “on the world stage”.

“I hope it means there is a rise in the level of cricket,” he said.

“Sometimes you can go for games or weeks because they come so thick and fast, sometimes with the crunch of the season.

“There should be an increase in quality. There may be a decrease in quantity, but quality is the most important thing for games to compete more globally, which is ultimately what this report is all about.”

And while it’s not clear how many regional draws would be suitable for the players, Surrey’s director of cricket Alec Stewart admits that reducing game time could improve the players.

“When the energy goes down, your performance goes down, so you’re trying to keep your performance high, which is what the review was about, so it’s getting the balance right,” he told BBC 5 Live Sports Extra.

However, Essex chief executive and interim chairman John Stephenson believes the proposed changes would not improve Test cricket in England.

“There are different opinions about all that and you can have big arguments about who is the better Test player,” he told BBC Essex.

“I think reducing the number of red-ball cricketers is not the way to produce better Test cricketers.

“Certainly, from Essex’s point of view, we wouldn’t want to see a reduction in the amount of championship cricket.”

The county finances a problem

Surrey’s Stewart said his club’s finances must be taken into account when considering new proposals.

“If it’s been a big performance and you’ve forgotten the members and the finances, yes, go for it,” he said.

“But it’s a bit bigger than that. I think we have to respect the members who pay the membership money to watch and support. The finances that make the game happen, does it all balance out well?”

And Sussex-based Filby added that cuts to T20 cricket would affect their income.

“In Sussex, particularly in the T20 competition, we hit the ground running,” he said.

“We had sell-outs in 2018 and that obviously has financial benefits for us in terms of earnings of around £100,000 for each of those eight games.

“But the 6,500 people who attend each match are also getting a cricket experience.

“It’s unacceptable to close our ground in Sussex for a couple of games, as we know there are people desperate to see and enjoy playing in Hove.”

Essex’s Stephenson agrees with Filby, telling BBC Essex: “I don’t think the club is in a position to vote for any cuts to domestic T20 cricket.

“That’s our life blood, that’s what brings the club revenue. But not only that, it’s something our members like to see.”

the tissues

Surrey’s Stewart is critical of playing in the County Championship while the Hundred are underway.

His team loses “12-14 players” to Hundred in August and questioned whether it could be a “fair and equal competition” as each region does not lose the same number of players.

He preferred to play “meaningful” cricket in August, saying the 50-over matches played in the month this year are better as they gave him a chance to blood new talent.

Filby agrees that an over-50s competition would be more appropriate and adds that his region will not be able to sell tickets to the proposed red ball festival.

“We played [Test] world champions in Hove during the May holidays [in a First Class fixture] – It’s a very good moment to attract the public and people didn’t want to come to see that,” he said.

“We couldn’t sell it. So if we can’t sell New Zealand, it’s a slim chance we’ll sell any of the red-ball festival cricket in August.”

Filby said the festival was one of two “red flags” in Strauss’s proposal, the other being a “reduction in T20 blast games”.

And Essex’s Stephenson said: “I think we have to start from the basis that we can’t play championship cricket across the Hundred, we can’t compromise the integrity of that competition by playing a lesser red-ball competition across the Hundred.

“I hope the ECB will see an over-50 competition with young blooded players as a bonus for high performance.”

What will it mean for the welfare of the players?

The Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) players’ committee said it welcomed the review after several players – including England Test captain Ben Stokes – criticized the sport’s busy schedule.

“The PCA and the majority of professional players agree that the current schedule is unsustainable and needs reform,” he said.

“The PCA and the players support the vision of England being the best team in the world in all formats.

“To do this, players must be allowed the space to grow and develop with adequate rest and recovery to maximize performance and protect player well-being.”

He added that he would discuss “the merits of the review’s findings and the need for more detail” and work “to achieve a positive outcome for the players and the game.”