Scott Hunt: The County Championship is really good, so please let us...

Scott Hunt: The County Championship is really good, so please let us enjoy it

As we enter the penultimate round of Division One of the County Championship, three teams can still win it – with just a point separating the top two – and four teams are still scrapping it out to avoid relegation to Division Two.

It’s perfectly set up for a thrilling climax to the season and the excitement levels around this magnificent product should be sky high.

But the fact is they are not. And that isn’t because cricket fans aren’t interested, they absolutely are, it’s simply because they are not being allowed to relish the top class action.

There is no TV coverage of either relegation-threatened Lancashire’s clash against leaders Middlesex at Old Trafford or the second vs third match-up between reigning champions Yorkshire and Somerset at Headingley.

It’s also believed there are currently no plans for Sky Sports to screen Middlesex vs Yorkshire at Lord’s next week – which is all set to be a head-to-head title decider.

Frankly, cricket fans are being let down – let down by the powers that be at the ECB and let down by the schedulers at the country’s sole cricket broadcaster.

A glance at the schedule on Sky yesterday is enough to raise eyebrows even higher. Countless episodes of ‘Premier League Years’ (including a two-hour slot dedicated to the 2015/16 season), a raft of highlights from the weekend’s football action, two chances to see last night’s NFL game and plenty of back-slapping with ‘The Sky Sports Years’.

There’s even four back-to-back episodes of ‘Darts Gold’. Now while we all admire the world’s finest tungsten ticklers, there’s only so many times you can become excited by the 2003 World Championship final between Phil Taylor & John Part.

The point is there’s not a single piece of live action being broadcast on Sky Sports today. Surely it would have been preferable to send a crew off to Headingley or Old Trafford to give cricket fans the chance to enjoy the closing stages of the County Championship. Financially they could have done it, but have chosen not to.

Similarly bewildering is the ECB’s decision to schedule the final two rounds of fixtures to start on a Monday and a Tuesday – therefore meaning not a single day will be played at a weekend.

Admittedly, grounds are never packed to the rafters for County Championship matches, but at least give fans half a chance to get down and see some action by playing the games when most people aren’t at work.

It’s almost as if the ECB are deliberately shooting themselves in the foot. There is difficulty marketing the Championship as an attractive product but, especially this year, the cricket is doing the talking.

The fact that what could be one of the most dramatic conclusions to the Championship in years is being allowed to drift by without being trumpeted by those in charge, is a staggering level of self-harm to an already-ailing competition.

There is an appetite for four-day county cricket, seen in the likes of BBC radio coverage, ESPNCricinfo’s live blog, and the fact that there’s enough support for Deep Extra Cover to tap into.

But it needs to be given every chance to flourish. Those fans who want to engage with the County Championship are being denied the opportunity by lack of broadcast time and brainless scheduling.

The County Championship is a terrific product, just give us all the chance to relish it.


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