President Roger Knight has told MCC Members that ‘Test cricket has become London-centric’ and ‘the time has come to pay attention to that fact’.
Knight made the comments during his President’s Address at the Club’s AGM at Lord’s on Wednesday 4 May.
Drawing upon statistics from the past three seasons, Knight informed the audience of 600 Members that:
- Attendances at Tests held outside London in May attracted fewer than 110,000 spectators
- That number was just 32% of the figure for Lord’s
- Nearly 342,000 spectators have attended the past three early summer Tests at Lord's
- In 2012, more spectators attended the Lord's Test against the West Indies than the other two Tests in the series combined
He also highlighted the MCC World Cricket committee’s role in the successful inaugural day/night Test match between Australia and New Zealand during an extended discussion of the state of Test cricket.
Please see below for an extract from the Address:
"I should now like to say a few words about the state of Test cricket, since many of you will know that there have been serious concerns about the number of Tests which will be played annually in England and Wales after 2019.
"The Committee is doing its utmost to ensure that MCC is placed in the best possible position to continue to host two Test matches in every year when there are two touring teams. We have enjoyed such a programme in most years since 1965; but it is by no means certain that from 2020 onwards there will be sufficient Test matches to enable MCC to be awarded two per summer.
"This is nothing to do with the Club’s capacity to stage these matches, nor is it a result of our relationship with ECB, which I can tell you is healthy. It is simply because there may not be sufficient Test matches to distribute amongst the grounds that would expect to stage them. I feel that the position is improving slightly, but there should be no complacency.
Test cricket should be celebrated, as the purest and chief form of the game
"Regrettably, Test cricket so often – and unnecessarily – is portrayed in newspapers in a negative way: ‘not a format for the modern day’, ‘hardly any spectators at overseas grounds’, ‘income from broadcasting declining’, and so on. I should like to see this trend reversed. Test cricket should be celebrated, as the purest and chief form of the game; it should be ‘talked up’, not denigrated. The floodlit Test match between Australia and New Zealand in Adelaide in November was a huge success – large crowds, a fantastic atmosphere, an entertaining match, a unique event.
"It was an inspired choice to play it at the Adelaide Oval – and the MCC World Cricket committee in particular is to be congratulated for providing the inspiration, for the idea originated from them. The Club in general should also feel pleased that the MCC v Champion County match at Abu Dhabi over the past few years has helped to lay the foundations for the first day/night Test.
"It is not hard to envisage there being two divisions in Test cricket, with Ireland included, perhaps. Members will know that, some years ago, the Club proposed a World Test Championship, to ensure that every Test has meaning and context. So far, due to the complexity of touring schedules, the proposal has proved too difficult to implement. However, two divisions would be a step along that path, an essential step in my view, in order that Test cricket be protected.
Test cricket is thriving in London, the time has come to pay attention to that fact
"Earlier, I mentioned that there had been two Test matches at Lord’s, by and large, since 1965, when twin tours started. In those early days, the summers comprised six Test matches – three played by each touring team; and three of the six Tests were played in London, with two here at Lord’s and the other at the Oval.
"When one examines the attendances at Test matches around the country, it is noticeable, in respect of the first series of the summer especially, that crowds at Lord’s are far greater than at other grounds.
"During the past three years, nearly 342,000 Members and spectators have attended the early summer Test match at Lord’s, and on some of those days the Ground was full and the Club could have sold more tickets. By contrast, the three Tests held outside London in May attracted fewer than 110,000 spectators – 32% of the figure for Lord’s. And in 2012, when there were three Tests against West Indies, the crowd here was higher than the other two grounds added together.
"The conclusion must be that Test cricket, early in the summer at least, has remained London-centric throughout the past 50 years. Test cricket is thriving in London, the time has come to pay attention to that fact."