If only Britain’s uncertain weather was as predictable as our busy sporting calendar.
Matches at Wimbledon would never be rained off, the Open would be played on links courses in fine, clear conditions mixed with occasional gusty, card-wrecking winds and we could identify the start of the domestic cricket season with a prolonged spell of glorious, warm sunshine.
Thankfully, neither life nor sport are blessed with such certainty, which means that successful sporting administrators must possess a deep well of innovative ideas and suggestions designed to capture the sporting public’s attention, usually within strict budgetary parameters.
There are few areas where this has been better displayed in recent years than in cricket’s domestic arena.
From a commercial perspective, cricket has developed into an unusual, unwieldy two-headed beast.
Thanks to England’s impressive performances over the past few years, Test match cricket continues to enjoy a prolonged spell of rude financial health.
Domestically, however, counties must frequently innovate in order to draw crowds in for first class matches, one-dayers and for the format that was once supposed to be the game’s commercial panacea – Twenty20.
The latter may have failed to live up to its early promise, but if an initiative currently under way at Warwickshire proves successful, T20 could still fulfil a role as a cornerstone of financial success.
A decade ago, Stuart Robertson, then marketing manager of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), persuaded his bosses to invest £200,000 in a study to discover why cricket attendances were falling.
The resulting report showed that a dramatically shortened form of cricket could potentially appeal to a new audience, provided they could watch the game to a conclusion after finishing work.
Subsequently launched in almost hesitant fashion nearly a decade ago, T20 was lauded as the latest in a long line of (invariably failed) attempts to attract new fans.
In truth, it was also driven by a desire to maintain cricket’s relevance as alternatives such as football and rugby gained even greater traction among sport’s burgeoning audience.
Reaction to the format from most cricketing purists was predictably hostile. To some, it was the devil incarnate, but this new form of cricket caught the public’s attention with a speed that even the game’s most enthusiastic exponent could not have foreseen.
Almost from day one, T20 proved a profitable cricketing format.
The game’s marketing bods had done their homework. Contests were scheduled to start after work and last no more than a couple of hours and, because the T20 competition took place during summer’s lightest nights, the theory was everyone would be finished and enjoying a beer by 8.30pm.
It worked. The sight of crowds flocking to cricket grounds at 5.30pm became commonplace, for a couple of summers at least.
Soon, however, T20’s astonishing popularity began, perversely, to account for its equally rapid decline.