OPINION: Are the changes to the county schedule good or bad?

Around a year ago, in March 2016, the ECB announced plans to adjust the scheduling for the 2017 county season for all three formats.


The County Championship, t20 Blast and Royal London One Day Cup all had changes made to each, with the Championship arguably undergoing the most considerable change to its schedule.


For the first time since 2000, the two divisions of nine teams were broken up and replaced by two divisions of eight and ten.


Those changes now see a reduction in the total games played, from 16 to 14. This has, in turn, led to changes in the overall schedule for counties during the season.


The 50 over competition will be played in a block, with the group stage beginning at the end of April and running continuously through to the middle of May.


This will see all eight group games being played over the course of a frenetic two and a half weeks, with cricket available once every few days.


The scheduling itself generally makes sense, with matches typically played on Fridays and Sundays, save for a couple of midweek fixtures. This, of course, will potentially appeal to the majority of fans who will likely have more opportunity to get along to weekend games rather than those in the middle of the week.


The same, or at least similar, premise has been applied to the t20 Blast. Like the RLODC, the Blast will be played in a solid block of fast-paced fixtures.


14 group games will be played in a six week window starting towards the start of July through to the middle of August.


There are a number of positives from playing these limited overs tournaments in blocks, particularly the t20 Blast.


Again, like the RLODC, the majority of the games will be played at the weekend, with the addition of a selection of Saturday matches.


This is progressive as it allows fans to go to games in bigger numbers and, as it is being played during the school holidays, a potential new audience may be involved with a more family-friendly structure being applied.


Furthermore, the blocks will have the potential to allow for the players to concentrate almost solely on training for the specific formats and competitions, thus potentially leading to concentrated performances and subsequent increase in quality.


However, with that same pattern of thought, the Championship’s aggressive divide in terms of fixtures being placed either side of each competition could well lead to the opposite of what may be achieved in the limited overs tournaments.


The weather could also be a big factor, with the Championship typically spread throughout the year, with a large number of games played at the end of the season, as well as the middle.


Additionally, the lack of structure to the longer format to the game could perhaps prove detrimental to the Test team, with players in form not getting a chance to continue due to the limited overs competitions potentially disrupting their rhythm.


Overall, the changes to scheduling are generally positive for county cricket, with a more concentrated schedule in terms of balancing the three formats throughout the season.

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