Worcestershire CCC members were given a detailed insight into the benefits and significance of the ECB's proposed new city based T20 competition at a New Road forum.
ECB Chairman Colin Graves, Chief Operating Officer Gordon Hollins plus Mike Fordham from the Commercial Department were all in attendance in The View for the near two hour forum in front of around 50 members.
The trio outlined the details of the eight team tournament which it is intended to be staged each August from 2020 in addition to the existing NatWest T20 Blast.
But minimising the impact on other competitions is also a major factor being taken into consideration.
It was confirmed that Worcestershire will receive an additional £1.3 million payment from the ECB each year if and when the competition goes ahead.
Worcestershire CCC CEO Tom Scott, chairman Stephen Taylor and new captain Joe Leach were also in attendance.
Gordon Hollins highlighted several issues concerning the state of the game:
* – the decline world wide of Test cricket
* – a real debt in the game in this country of £140 million
* – a 15% decline in the participation in cricket during the past 10 years
* – how to inspire the next generation of children to engage with cricket
He said: "We are at a watershed moment. We have a huge opportunity to make sure our game is preserved and prosperous for the long term.
"But we need to change. That is difficult because no-one likes change but we believe unless we do, the picture is gloomy."
Mike Fordham also pinpointed several pertinent issues regarding the game
* – cricket being reliable on a largely male middle-upper class audience across all formats in the 40-50 age group
* – only 5% of fans attending international matches in 2016 were under 16
* – just 13% of supporters watching NatWest T20 Blast games were juniors
* – teenagers in an ECB survey regarded Premiership rugby and WWE wrestling more interesting than cricket
* – twice as many teenagers in the survey recognised John Cena, an American wrestler, than England Test captain Alastair Cook.
Hollins said: "The question is what are we doing about it? We put together a strategy for cricket – and what are we going to try and get to as a game – and we came up with 'Cricket Unleashed' – meaning we can unleash the potential to reach more people.
"The major priorities are getting more people to play the game, great teams, inspire fans via competitions which inspire more fans to watch the game.
"They are our three priorities going forward and will drive our decisions."
As regards the new proposed T20 competition Mike Fordham said: "T20 cricket is critically important to delivering all those elements of Cricket Unleashed.
"The ECB board tasked a group of ECB executives led By Gordon Hollins to undertake a more thorough analysis of the options for T20 cricket.
"We were asked to look at every option on the table and held meetings with chief executives, chairman, financial directors of each county and consulted regularly with the PCA.
"That led to the meeting of first class counties chairmen and CEOs in September and the ECB presented our firm recommendation for T20 cricket going forward.
"Whilst the current standards of the T20 Blast are high, we think a new condensed competition can help bridge the gap and prepare players more for international cricket.
"Our firm recommendation was two T20 competions, a county based model and a new T20 model.
"We think that new audience can be brought in with a different product and attract different sponsors to the game."
Explaining the possible way the T20 Blast and new T20 competition would evolve, Fordham said: "The County based T20 competition would be in mainly June-July. Our current thinking is three regional groups of six, 10 games per county, so a slight reduction on the current 14 with quarter-finals and a finals day.
"We would then have a shorter, sharper, new team competition of eight new entities, based largely probably at the larger venues, playing 35 games over 3-4 weeks in August in the height of the summer holidays to attract that family audience. Every game would be televised, a mix of pay TV and free to air.
"The competition would be operated by a new division of the ECB but still owned by all 18 first class counties and all counties would benefit financially from the competition to help underpin their financial future.
"We want to build a new team T20 competition aimed at a diverse family audience. T20 cricket is the best format for encouraging participation amongst young people."
Worcestershire members were then allowed to question the ECB trio on any related topic.
One member wondered if a two tier T20 Blast was the way forward rather than the new competition.
But Gordon Hollins suggested the new proposed competition would help counties to retain their better players.
Hollins said: "If you have a two division competition, you will inevitably have the haves and the have nots.
"If, for example, Worcestershire don't get in the first division, Joe Leach, for example, has got a really hard decision to make as to whether he leaves and plays in the top tier or he stays where he is.
"We were talking to Ben Duckett and he wants to stays at Northants and sees this structure as a way he can progress by staying at Northants but playing in the new competition as well."
Another member questioned the additional cost to cricket supporters if they wanted to attend the new competition.
Hollins said: "We don't want the same people to go. They can if they like but there would be no point in doing this if we were just moving specators from New Road to Edgbaston."
Fordham said: "On the ticket pricing for the new competition, we think the vast amount of the revenues will be sponsorship and broadcast so we won't have a need to charge huge ticket prices and try and make it very affordable for families and particularly kids."
One member felt the new competition might mean counties over-stretching themselves financially to attract leading overseas players in the hunt for glory.
Hollins said: "There is always that risk that some clubs over-stretch themselves with that competitive urge to compete at the top table.
"We believe a salary cap we have in place now is the best way to control that potential wage inflation that could happen."
Another member asked what kind of cricket would be played by the counties when the new T20 competition was being fought out.
Hollins said: "It is one we are wrestling with now. We are looking at all the options in August because we think that is one of the critical issues we have got to address.
"How do we preserve the integrity of red ball cricket and make sure that doesn't just fall away completely as it has in other parts of the world.
"There are some people who think we should play the Championship in August with teams that aren't full strength.
"You've got other ideas of playing a one-day competition in August. The latest idea that came up last week was Minor Counties being involved in a competition. It is one of the options.
"Nothing is ruled in or out but it is a fundamental issue and the protection of the Championship is really central to that."
The general feedback from members appeared positive after hearing the ECB trio's reasons for the proposed new competition.
One lady, who has been a member for 70 years said: "I have seen lots of changes. I am quite sure with all this change, even though I am a bit dubious about it, it will work. We have to think positive."
ECB chairman Colin Graves summed up the need for the new competition.
He said: "I have take the option of changing the game for the better and sustainability going forward. We are talking about cricket in the right position going forward for the young generation we are missing.
"I say to all the county chairman 'leave a legacy for your club, leave a legacy for cricket, look forward instead of back.'
"We've got to get this right from an operational, customer, broadcaster, county point of view.
"Don't think you are not part of it by not having a game played here and you will get £1.3 million per year to make sure you can sustain cricket in Worcestershire.
"It's not just about the grounds where the matches are going to be played. It is making sure we get cricket back to where it needs to be."