The 2015 County Cricket Membership Comparison

The costs of the international game may be spiralling upwards, yet as any fule kno, the domestic game continues to provide the best value for money for the honest cricket lover. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the various membership packages offered by the Eighteen. For a couple of hundred quid, the price of a couple of days’ Test cricket, you can soak up unlimited first-class cricket at your local (or not so local) county ground.

That being said, not all membership packages are created equal. Some provide better value than others. Many followers will not, of course, have the luxury of being able to choose their club: loyalties run deep. For the unaffiliated aficionado, however, where is his or her money best spent?

The data has been collected, crunched, and compiled into the following table, ordered by position in the County Championship (after relegation/promotion at the end of the 2014 season).

Points of note:

  • The price listed is the regular price available to a new member, with no early-bird/junior/senior/student discounts factored in. However, if a direct-debit discount is available, that has been reflected in the price.
  • The package for comparison is the cheapest available that covers entry to all home matches in all competitions (excluding knockout stages). Essex are the only county that do not offer a package that includes T20 matches; therefore, the price has been calculated by adding the cost of entry to each individual home T20 to the membership package that covers the other games.
  • Many counties offer sizeable early-bird discounts and/or “country” discounts to members that live a specified distance away from the county’s home ground.
County 2014 LVCC position Cost Difference to average
Yorkshire 1 £220 3.48%
Warwickshire 2 £200 -5.93%
Sussex 3 £250 17.59%
Nottinghamshire 4 £160 -24.75%
Durham 5 £195 -8.28%
Somerset 6 £212 -0.29%
Middlesex 7 £240 12.88%
Hampshire 8 £225 5.83%
Worcestershire 9 £204 -4.05%
Lancashire 10 £223 4.89%
Northamptonshire 11 £239 12.41%
Essex 12 £236 11.00%
Derbyshire 13 £195 -8.28%
Surrey 14 £194 -8.75%
Kent 15 £255 19.94%
Gloucestershire 16 £225 5.83%
Glamorgan 17 £179 -15.81%
Leicestershire 18 £175 -17.69%

We see that prices differ in a range of £95, with the average package costing £213. Kent, at £255, have the unenviable position as most expensive county, closely followed by GOSBTS at £250. The former has, however, one of the more generous country-member discounts, with full access available for just £130, providing you’re not within 75 miles of Canterbury. This makes it available to most of the country, London excepted.

Talking of London, there is a surprisingly large discrepancy in the amounts Middlesex and Surrey charge. Middlesex charge a pricy £240 (£50 less for renewing members), and sadly not all matches will be at Lord’s. Surrey, by contrast, tuck in below the two-hundred-pound threshold at £194. Despite being a Middlesex man, I therefore, with gritted teeth, have to recommend joining Surrey as best value in the South East.

It certainly seems better than the Essex offering. At Chelmsford it isn’t possible to buy a package encompassing all games: one has to buy the standard package at £152 and then £12 a pop for each T20 game. On the plus side, if you know you won’t make more than 3 or 4 of the T20s, this allows you to regulate your spending, bringing the cost in line with other counties. On the down side, even as a member you have to book in advance and can’t just roll up on the day, as you could at Lord’s, for example.

Note in passing, however, that a non-member T20 ticket with reserved seating is an astonishing £29. This seems ludicrously high, especially when you consider that over in Cardiff, for £30, just £1 extra, you could see England play Australia – and as a double-header too, with both the men’s and women’s teams’ T20Is included in the price.

Talking of Cardiff, £179 seems reasonable, compared to regional rivals Gloucestershire (£225) and Somerset (£212). Glamorgan: best in the West, especially when you consider their £40 Early Bird discount.

If all you want to watch at Chelmsford is T20, just buy individual tickets at £22: pricey, but 7 x £22 = £154.

The White and Red head-to-head is close, with Yorkshire edging the Roses battle, although at just £3 more, it would only be the most fickle of Lancashire supporters who would be tempted to defect. It’s Durham, though, that yield best value in the North: their charge of £195 is bettered by only one county in Division One.

Yet it is that county that stands out overall. Nottinghamshire not only offer the lowest price of any county, first or second division, but they also remain one of the most competitive counties, with solid credentials in the Championship and knockout-stage progress in the 2014 limited-overs competitions. Included in the price is access to all Northamptonshire and Leicestershire home Championship matches. Throw into the mix the prospect of seeing several young England stars in action, and priority access to booking international tickets, and it’s easy to see why Nottinghamshire receive the prestigious Raging Turner County Membership of The Year 2015.

Intoxicated With The Spirit: Keep Calm And Carry On Mankading

Newsflash: Sports player plays sport by rules of the sport. Cue massive outrage and moral indignation.

Anyone who’s been watching county cricket in the last 24 hours will instantly recognise the situation described. Stripped down to its bare bones, the Kartik-Barrow incident in the Somerset CCC vs Surrey CCC match looks comical. What’s all the fuss about?

In fact, it gets even more ridiculous. Since the bowler had delivered a prior warning, the newsflash becomes: Sports player plays sport by rules, after giving opponent bonus chance to play fairly. And it gets worse: Sports team captain apologises for playing by the rules.

So why the vehemence? By and large, it’s that old chestnut being invoked: the Spirit of the Game.

The Spirit of the Game is an essential part of the game of Cricket, officially codified in 2000, and is a key factor in setting cricket apart as special. It outlines the general attitudes that should rule the game and guide the way it is played.

The Spirit is meant to fill in in areas where the Laws may be unclear, or where there may be room for interpretation. Think of the Laws as rules, and the Spirit as a guiding principle.

The central idea is that of “fair play”. Players, and their captains, must be seen to be acting in a gentlemanly, sportsmanlike, and fair way to their opponents. They must not act in any way that brings the game into disrepute.

There is no problem with this. Indeed, it’s a most valuable standard to have available in a world where sports scandals seem to occur on a daily basis, be they accusations of drug taking (cycling), match throwing (badminton), or spot-fixing (cricket).

Within the power of the Spirit of Cricket lies a weakness, though. When some subset of the cricket-watching community dislike a particular action, it’s all too eay to call it “unsporting” and “against the Spirit of the Game”. Despite not having solid grounds for such forthright statements, the vague appeal to the Spirit nevertheless whips up popular feeling. All too often the media jumps on the bandwagon – even if the majority of viewers don’t think there’s been a breach.

When the banner of the “Spirit of Cricket” is hijacked by non-existent problems, it counter-productively diminishes respect for the Spirit.

So was there a breach of the Spirit in this case? It’s already been established that there was no breach of the Laws themselves (the MCC Laws taken together with the ECB Playing Conditions). Yet the media coverage, by and large, sought to suggest an ungentlemanly undercurrent, representing the Surrey captain as “contrite”.

The Preamble to the Laws, that seeks to capture the Spirit in words, is in fact very short. The key sections here are:

  • The Spirit of the Game involves respect for your opponents and the game’s traditional values. (Section 4)
  • It is against the Spirit of the Game to indulge in cheating or any sharp practice. (Section 5)
  • Each player must also avoid behaving in a manner which might bring the game into disrepute. (Section 1)

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Respect for opponents and traditional values

Traditionally, Mankading has been seen as ungentlemanly, if delivered without warning. It should be stressed that this is simply a matter of tradition: the Laws do not consider this to be an instance of unfair play. Nevertheless, tradition holds that a warning should be given first. If such a warning is given, the bowler has given the batsman a fair chance, fair signal of intent, and therefore is not acting in an unsportsmanlike fashion.

Furthermore, tradition is always a slippery concept to appeal to. Admittedly Mankading may be rare in first-class cricket, but does that automatically make it unfair? Being out “obstructing the field” is rare. That doesn’t make it unfair to appeal when a batsman is guilty of deliberate obstruction. Alternatively, imagine that over the next seventy years, being out LBW becomes extremely rare. Would it be unfair to claim such a wicket in 2082, simply because it had fallen out of tradition?

The Preamble asks players to respect the game’s traditional values, not its traditions. There is a significant difference. Traditions may change, but values should stay the same. Mankading may be non-traditional – just as switch-hitting, Twenty20, and Dilscooping are non-traditional – but it does not necessarily conflict with the game’s traditional values of sportsmanship and fair play, especially when delivered with a warning.

Cheating and sharp practice

Mankading is clearly not cheating, since the Laws expressly allow for it. Is it sharp practice? Clearly not, when it is compared with the examples of cheating and sharp practice listed by the Laws: appealing when knowing the batsman is not out, advancing on the umpire, and trying to distract an opponent. Mankading gets a clean bill here.

Bringing the game into disrepute

To accuse an action of bringing the game into disrepute is a weighty and serious claim. For it to hold any water, though, such an accusation needs to be backed up with clear reasoning. For instance, the spot fixing of Amir, Asif, and Butt clearly brought the game into disrepute. The image of cricket was sullied, as the public was no longer able to trust the contests they witnessed would be genuine battles.

Keep Calm and Carry On Mankading psuedo-WWII-era posterSo how does a Mankad bring the game into disrepute? It seems ridiculous to place Kartik’s Mankading on a similar plane to spot fixing. How can Mankading affect the public’s view of cricket? Here’s a challenge: find a member of the public, present the opening “newsflash” from the beginning of the article, and see if he/she sees anything untoward in the situation. If anything, trying to explain the situation risks lending credence to the view of many that the game of cricket is insufferably stuffy and literally ridiculous, through its suffocating insistence on pointless minutiae, and totally unsuited to the modern world of sport.

Once investigated, the grand claims of “failing to uphold the Spirit of Cricket” shrink and collapse to a feeble “but I didn’t like what he did.”

It’s a sad thought that by attempting to drag the Spirit of Cricket in where it isn’t being violated, that very attempt can contribute to a lessening of respect for that Spirit. Spectators, supporters, and the media all have a responsibility to not abuse the Spirit of the Game, and play fairly with players who are playing fairly. Captains should not be bullied into believing they have committed an error, simply because a vocal section have expressed their displeasure.

So Mankading must stay. Batsmen should be kept honest (to recycle a cliché in a different context). And both players and onlookers, in their respective ways, must respect the Spirit of the Game.

Report: West Indians recall that winning feeling

West Indians (335-4, 50.0) beat Middlesex CCC (107-9 all out, 31.0) by 228 runs

Wednesday 15th June 2012
By Liam Cromar at Lord’s

Gayle may grab the headlines, but it was Dwayne Smith and Darren Bravo who made the strongest cases for selection, as the touring West Indians crushed an inexperienced Middlesex side by upwards of 200 runs. Of late, the sensation of completely dominating a match has been rare for this side, but today everything clicked into place. Even the English weather smiled upon the West Indians.

It’s probably fair to say that the most anticipated innings of the day was Chris Gayle’s first back in West Indian colours. He quickly showed himself to be in fine form, reserving especial punishment for Murtagh, who toiled away from the Media Centre End, only to watch Gayle dispatching him for leg-side boundaries with typical lazy disdain. For all the early fireworks, though, he did not last as long as would have been hoped, holing out to deep mid-wicket for a relatively modest 38. Perhaps the IPL dial needs to yet be turned down a notch or two.


The real work of the innings, therefore, fell upon nos. 3 and 4, Darren Bravo and Dwayne Smith. With the pitch appearing totally innocuous, batting was simply a matter of not getting too excited and making silly errors. Smith and Bravo hardly offered a single chance in their century stand. As the innings progressed into early afternoon, the foot was increasingly pressed down on the accelerator, as the pair, already progressing at a healthy 4- or 5- an over, launched the West Indians towards a mammoth total. Smith, when only four from a century, finally made an error, driving straight at mid-on; he nonetheless received a standing ovation from the Pavilion. Pollard, in at 5, made 18 quickly, but didn’t last long, leaving the two Bravos to complete the final touches. Not that they were delicate touches: Dwayne Bravo raced to 40*, while Darren Bravo (112*) reached his century and then completed the innings with a flurry of sixes, including one off the last ball, leading his team to an imposing 335-4.

Middlesex’s reply, by contrast, started badly and got worse. Stumbling to 15-2 in 7 overs, they continued to lose wickets, and at 38-4, were already out of it. Davey (24*), together with Smith (16), put up a little resistance, avoiding Middlesex the ignominy of a double-figure total, but Smith fell in Gayle’s first over. Having somehow got away with apparently reverse-sweeping Gayle straight to slip – Sammy injected some humour into the dispute by signalling for a TV replay – Gayle sent the next ball through his defences, bowling him to provide a certain moral justice. Gayle also went on to remove the new batsman in the same over, showing rare animation in his celebrations. The double strike left Gayle with impressive bowling figures on his return – a double-wicket maiden.

To be fair to Middlesex, their side was certainly not a first-string XI, having chosen to field several youngsters in preparation for the T20 tournament, and not having their England stars Morgan and Finn available for selection. They would, nonetheless, have hoped to resist better; Stirling, for instance, after his CB40 122-ball 119 on Sunday, would have hoped for better than 1, although his bowling figures were exemplary (7-0-26-1). Murtagh, also, after his call-up to the Ireland squad, would not have been happy with his ten expensive overs (10-0-75-1). The worst moment, was, sadly, when their young bowler Robbie Williams dived onto his shoulder for a catch and had to be helped off the field, suffering a broken collarbone. Middlesex will hope he is able to recover quickly from his unfortunate injury.

A group of West Indian children in the Compton Stand, having been chanting “Bra-vo” during the Bravo-Bravo partnership, apparently heard my companion’s muttered injunction to ‘at least be specific’, and switched to a chant of “D, M, Bra-vo”. Sterner tests will be ahead, but they, the Bravos, the rest of the West Indian supporters, and the West Indian team themselves, will take heart from this fine performance.

Decision

– a pleasant day out, but nothing of a contest.