Chris Waters: Backing Vann in drive to protect the County Championship

The County Championship works in its current form and should not be tampered with.

The County Championship works in its current form and should not be tampered with.

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“WE have a saying in this part of the country,” says Tony Vann. “If it is not broken, do not mend it.”

The Yorkshire County Cricket Club vice-president was reflecting on the threat to the greatest domestic tournament of all – the County Championship.

For Vann believes that unless people speak out against plans to cut the number of Championship games from 16 to 12, the change will be pushed through by the England and Wales Cricket Board without so much as a backward glance to 125 years of history and tradition.

Vann would not be alone in regarding that as a disastrous step for cricket in this country, both for those spectators who love the competition and also for those players striving to develop the necessary skills to represent England at Test level.

As you are no doubt aware, the new broom at the ECB is conducting a thorough review of cricket in England, set to be delivered in October, and it is no secret that the poor old Championship is firmly in the firing line.

The problem is this: the Championship does not make money and T20 does.

According to the ECB, the solution is, therefore, straightforward – to play more T20 games and less Championship matches, possibly dividing the Championship into three divisions of seven with the addition of Associates/Minor Counties.

It is also thought that a franchise T20 tournament – to run in addition to the T20 Blast – could eventually be adopted along the lines of the Indian Premier League and the Australian Big Bash League.

Like Vann, I am a traditionalist, and although I recognise that the game must move with the times, cutting the Championship is not the answer.

County cricket, as I have long droned on in this column, should exist for the benefit of spectators as much as for the benefit of the England team, for without spectators, there would not be any cricket.

Yes, the schedule is a mess and, yes, there are too many games, with 14 group matches in the T20 Blast suggestive of overkill.

But the Championship in its current form works, and plans to change it should be fought with every sinew.

As Vann makes clear: “If this reduction comes about, this will give each county only six home (Championship) games for a season that lasts for almost six months – ie, an average of one home game a month.

“The current membership at Yorkshire is at an all-time low of just under 4,000 members in 2014, and it would surely fall further with this 25 per cent reduction.

“The whole ethos of the County Championship would be torn to shreds by this butchering of a competition that has stood the test of time for the last 125 years. The ECB should ask themselves: where did Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler learn their trade?”

Although determined to fight fire with fire, Vann fears that counties will have change of some sort forced on them whether they like it or not.

He is not prepared to sit idly by and bow to the inevitable.

“The present system of 16 four-day games per county and two divisions of nine should be sacrosanct as it has proved itself time after time and given the game such a rich heritage,” he says.

Vann speaks for every genuine cricket lover.

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