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Time to milk the cash cow?

Laurie, The Jewish Community Secondary School, UK

It was over before it felt like it had really begun. In the haze of a September evening Jake Ball, facing his final delivery of professional cricket, swept a full ball from Robson – and Middlesex’s survival hopes – away to the boundary. But underlying a season of disappointment, failure and ultimately relegation, there is a question not being asked that needs to be addressed. 

In County cricket, the league is won as much off the field as it is on it. It is won with every penny that can be scraped from a pocket, every purse turned inside out. In the Championship, sponsorship is inexpensive at best and player transfers are worth next to nothing, meaning what comes through the turnstiles is indispensable. So what happens if you don’t own your stadium? What happens if instead you’re renting?

In many people’s view, the MCC, founded in 1787, represents much that is wrong with English cricket. An elite club of mainly white, predominantly male, wealthy individuals who own the laws of the game; a club that is worth millions of pounds. I almost forgot – it also owns Lord’s. 

Middlesex, one of the oldest county sides, has always played at Lord’s, renting it from the MCC, meaning that everything that comes through the gates goes to the MCC. Because of this Middlesex has, despite being one of the richer areas, always scraped the bottom in the wealth stakes. The effect this has was highlighted last season more than ever. Their one mainstay overseas player, Pieter Malan, whose last tests came four years ago, endured an appalling red ball season. Last term, the raw pace of Shaheen Shah Afridi yielded high returns; after losing him to the Outlaws, Middlesex managed a late signing of Jayant Yadav but he failed to produce results. Soon Middlesex were back where they started: at the foot of County cricket.

So what can be done? Well, most counties’ affiliated members’ clubs are merged with the club itself. So could Middlesex merge with the MCC? This idea was tried in 2008 and was dismissed in the blink of an eye. For such a stringent board, so resistant to change, then perhaps the only option is to offer the cash cow the purchase of Middlesex County Cricket Club itself. Although radical, this could be a turning point in how Middlesex fares in the championship in years to come.

Cricket has been through a lot. The game as we know it has undergone drastic changes, from the damning reports by the ICEC, to the slow dwindle of ODI cricket hanging by a thread. Can there be one more change –  a change that could shift Middlesex’s fortunes for the better?

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