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.

Remove the Penalty Runs signals from the attack

How many of the 14 umpiring signals can you name and recognise? Some are certainly more familiar than others. Top of the list is probably “out” – “raising an index finger above the head”. Next in line would be the boundary signals: “boundary four” being “waving an arm from side to side finishing with the arm across the chest” and “boundary six” being “raising both arms above the head.” These are familiar to even those with only a casual acquaintance with the game.

Next would come those familiar only to those with some knowledge of the game, including such gestures as “no ball” (“extending one arm horizontally”) and “bye” (“raising an open hand above the head”). Even signals such as “revoke” (“touching both shoulders, each with last signal the opposite hand”) are becoming more familiar, thanks to DRS. However, even amongst players, it’s surprising how some are unfamiliar with the signals, let alone the underlying laws.

At the bottom of the list in Law 3.14 come the rarely seen signals such as “new ball” (“holding the ball above the head”) and “short run” (“bending one arm upwards and touching the nearer shoulder with the tips of the fingers”). Considering that the occasions on which players would see these are few and far between, it’s excusable for your average player not to know them.

Scorers, of course, have to recognise all the signals, as their recognition or non-recognition may have a direct impact on the result – a short run missed, for instance, could turn a tie into a loss.

There are, however, two particularly troublesome signals that I wish to criticise. These are the signals for five penalty runs awarded to the batting and fielding sides respectively. To illustrate my point, can you, without checking, state what these are?

I’ll even give you the definitions for the two maddeningly similar signals:

  • “placing one hand on the opposite shoulder”
  • “repeated tapping of one shoulder with the opposite hand”

Can you determine, without simply guessing at random, which means the runs are awarded to the batting side, and which to the fielding side?

As far as I can see, there’s nothing that obviously associates either gesture with either team. The closest I’ve got is that “repeated tapping” might suggest hitting an object, and so could be loosely tied to the batting team. Weak as that may be, it’s better than the “placing one hand” on the shoulder that indicates awarding runs to the fielding side. Perhaps placing the hand around the ball of the shoulder could be reminiscent of gripping a cricket ball. Unfortunately, this could easily instead suggest ball-tampering, thus giving exactly the wrong idea of who the runs should be awarded to.
By contrast, several of the more common signals have a good match with the real world. It doesn’t take a genius to see, for instance, how waving a hand translates to “bye”. Even slightly more obscure ones like “boundary four” can be interpreted as the action for sweeping or pulling a ball to the boundary.

If a missed short run could alter a match result, then it’s clear that awarding 5 runs to the wrong team could have an even greater impact, leading to a 10-run error. Theoretically the scorers should check with the umpires; however, in real-life situations, things don’t always work out that way.

At this point I’d like to bring in some concepts from a field more associated with technology, that of usability. We can regard the umpire signalling as a system, the users of which are the scorer, umpire, and players. There are a few principles that bear on the design of these signals.

Of the famous 10 Usability Heuristics that Jakob Nielsen listed, two in particular seem to be violated:

“Error prevention: even better than good error messages [umpires alerting scorers to the incorrect score] is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. […] Eliminate error-prone conditions […].”
“Match between system and the real world: The system should speak the users’ language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user […] Follow real-world conventions […].”

On both these heuristics the Penalty Runs signals don’t fare well. Their similarity causes confusion and their lack of reference to the real world makes them hard to decipher. Are they the best we can do?

Having said all that, I have no firm suggestions for what could replace them. Since a significant amount of their confusion is down to their similarity, I would say that only one needs to be replaced: the one that awards runs to the fielding side.

It’s tempting to incorporate the “five” element into the gesture, since, as of 2014, that is the number of runs awarded. Since it’s conceivable that the number might be altered by MCC at some stage, though, perhaps it would be best not to use it.

The best I have come up with so far is “raising a clenched fist vertically above the head.” The clenched fist would signify the ball, and the arm position would also suggest bowling, thus associating it with the fielding side. It should be possible for the scorer to differentiate it from the signal for “bye”, since the latter involves waving, and from “out”, since that specifies an index finger to be raised.

I’m interested to hear other suggestions on this topic. In the meantime, though, we have to be realistic – the signal won’t change. As a scorer, there’s no option other than learning the official signals, and learning them correctly.

Which Ashes host town boasts the best ground capacity to town population ratio?

Congratulations to Chester-le-Street and the Riverside Ground for hosting their first Ashes Test, an achievement the scale of which is all the more emphasised when one takes into account the small population of the surrounding town. Apparently the population of the urban area is only around 23000, which suggests one could fit almost all the residents into the ground. And the remainder could be given a Day 2 ticket.

The consideration of this ratio prompted me to check other Test grounds; is this favourable ratio challenged by any other ground? To keep the challenge within manageable proportions, I opted only to research grounds that have hosted Ashes Tests. Population figures are taken from 2011 official statistics, and generally apply to the greater metropolitan area (e.g. Greater Melbourne). Ground capacities are from Cricinfo.

Chester-le-Street, as expected, is far and away top of the list with a ratio of nearly 1 in 3 (note that the 53210 figure applies to its surrounding district). Next is Bramall Lane, which can safely be disregarded since it has not been used for cricket since 1973. The Exhibition Ground in Brisbane can be similarly overlooked.

Melbourne boasts the best Australian ratio, thanks largely to its massive stadium capacity; despite being the third-largest city (after London and Sydney), it has by far the highest-capacity stadium, yielding a ratio of under 1 in 40.

Bringing up the rear are Sydney and London. The SCG’s ratio of approximately 1 in 105 is still twice as impressive as Lord’s, with the latter coming in at around 1 in 272, and three times superior to that of The Oval, at 1 in nearly 348.

What would be interesting would be next to compare average ticket prices across the 13 grounds and investigate whether there is any correlation between population and price. With tickets even for Day 4 at Chester-le-Street at around £80, I would doubt any significant correlation exists for grounds in the UK, although Australia may well be a different matter.

Ground Team Host town Capacity 2011 population Ratio (0 d.p.)
Riverside Ground England Chester-le-Street 17000 53210 3
Bramall Lane England Sheffield 50000 551800 11
Trent Bridge England Nottingham 17000 305700 18
Sophia Gardens England Cardiff 15000 324800 22
Old Trafford England Manchester 19000 503127 26
Melbourne Cricket Ground Australia Melbourne 100000 3999982 40
Adelaide Oval Australia Adelaide 31000 1263000 41
Headingley England Leeds 17000 751500 44
Edgbaston England Birmingham 21000 1074000 51
The Gabba Australia Brisbane 40000 2147000 54
W.A.C.A. Ground Australia Perth 24500 1740000 71
Exhibition Ground Australia Brisbane 26000 2147000 83
Sydney Cricket Ground Australia Sydney 44002 4627000 105
Lord's England London 30000 8174000 272
Kennington Oval England London 23500 8174000 348