Twenty20 ticket sales have soared again to a new level in 2019 – just 12 months before the England and Wales Cricket Board plan to shake up the game with their new 100-ball tournament.
A total of nearly 950,000 fans attended the 133 T20 Blast games involving the 18 first-class county sides.
And it was not just down to England winning the World Cup for the first time in July, says Surrey chief executive Richard Gould.
“People really want to come to cricket matches,” Gould told BBC Radio London.
“There is no doubt that England’s World Cup win, then the excitement surrounding the Ashes Test series has provided cricket with a lot more profile.
“But we were on track for record sales – in terms of our advance sales – even before the World Cup finished.
“Across both the South and North Groups, more and more people are enjoying their experience of attending Blast games and watching their local counties.”
The facts and figures
- Average attendances for T20 Blast group matches rose 15% – and are now up 47% over the past five years.
- The 65,000 advanced tickets sold in the first week was the most in the 17 summers since English cricket’s first professional T20 tournament began.
- Middlesex’s home derby against Surrey at Lord’s on 8 August was watched by 27,773, the highest attendance for an English domestic Twenty20 match.
- North Group winners Lancashire showed a 34% increase to 95,319 in 2019, including a 23,500 Roses Match sell-out against Yorkshire.
- They also broke their non-Roses Match attendance record three times – 13,710 v Durham, 14,752 v Leicestershire and 15,196 v Derbyshire.
- South Group winners Sussex sold out six of their seven home matches – but so did the team in eighth place, Surrey.
- Finals Day first-timers Derbyshire’s record sales included two 5,000 home sell-outs.
Success breeds success
Nottinghamshire commercial director Michael Temple says that having an established successful side is a big factor.
Although left crushed after defeat off the final ball in the first semi-final against eventual runners-up Worcestershire, Notts nonetheless have a successful approach to T20 cricket – three Finals Days now in four years, topped by winning the trophy itself in 2017, after a run of successive home quarter-final defeats.
“This was the ninth time in 10 years we’ve qualified for the knockouts,” said Temple. “Having a team with a winning record allows us to capitalise on the scheduling and the weather to attract big crowds to the renowned atmosphere at Trent Bridge.”
The Outlaws posted average crowds in excess of 12,000, at the same time that numbers at T20 cricket are increasing from among their members.
Lancashire, who topped the North Group, had a 48% increase in T20 season ticket holders compared to 2018, while 73% of this year’s Blast purchasers had not watched cricket at Old Trafford since 2017.
And Surrey had a record 3,600 members for the final group decider against eventual winners Essex – and it is at The Oval from where arguably the most impressive figures come.
Surrey have ‘killed the beer snakes’
Surrey attracted a total of 165,461 people to their seven home games, worth approximately £1m. Yet, although they made the first four Finals Days, they have not won the trophy since its very first year in 2003.
And, although they have come close since, the most recent of their other two final appearances was the competition’s record final defeat – by Northants in 2013.
Yet still they flock in to The Oval – and, say Surrey, that it is down to a more family-friendly environment.
“We’ve killed the beer snakes,” Surrey chairman Richard Thompson told BBC Test Match Special. “And the numbers are astronomical.
“This year 50% of our T20 purchasers are brand new to cricket and 60% are new to T20. But, four to five years on, a lot of the ‘kids for a quid’ are now members.”
Surrey are also just days away from beginning building work which will add an additional 2,000 seats – taking their capacity to 27,000.
“Ticket sales for T20 games have seen constant growth since 2012 across the country,” said Gould.
“This year we had games at The Oval which were sell-outs even when England were playing Test cricket at Lord’s on that same day.”
What will happen in 2020?
Next season, when The Hundred gets under way, the English cricket season will get yet another major rejig. The full extent will not be discovered until the fixtures come out at the end of November.
The Hundred, which will feature eight new city-based teams, is expected to be played in July and August. It has not yet been revealed where the final will take place.
T20 Blast Finals Day, being played at Edgbaston for an eighth straight year, has been moved slightly forward in the calendar to 5 September.
The first One-Day Cup final away from Lord’s will be right at the end of next season at Trent Bridge on Saturday, 19 September.
The County Championship season is expected to dominate the early part of the summer. A lot of games are likely to be in April and May.