Today the European Cricket League (ECL) announces that England and Wales would be represented at the 2020 edition of the tournament by Swanderston C.C. of Norfolk. The news comes on the back of a major expansion by Daniel Weston and his team to include 7 new federations for this year (6 of which have been announced to date) and increase the ECL from 8 to 16 teams.
This is quite simply enormous news for the tournament. Whilst the 2019 edition made one hell of a bang, crowning Dutch champions V.O.C. Rotterdam ‘Kings of Europe’ and unearthing cricketing cult hero Pavel Florin, the 3-day tournament will not have created a big imprint in the wider cricketing culture, particularly because the nations represented were not major players on cricket’s world stage.
Announcing a 2nd Dutch team in H.B.S. Craeyenhout and Scotland’s participation through domestic champion Forfarshire C.C. will certainly have helped to flesh out the ECL’s potential, but with England involved it now has gravitas. The active presence of one of cricket’s ‘big three’ will capture more attention from a larger proportion of England’s not inconsiderate fanbase, and perhaps more crucially, its media. This obviously helps to make a bigger impact and it’s rumoured that the ECL is getting a bigger TV deal.
This is great news for the long-term future of the tournament, but it also comes with some drawbacks.
Firstly, what influence could the ECB have over the ECL? For instance, the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Oval at the La Manga Resort in southern Spain is the current host of the tournament. It provides a good wicket, excellent facilities and a wonderful setting for a cricket tournament but could the ECL come under pressure to host it in England instead?
Secondly, could an elevated presence from English cricket media skew the reporting? In the 2019 edition the teams received a fairly even amount of coverage, with the exception of champions V.O.C. Rotterdam and Pavel Florin’s Cluj C.C. of Romania. The tournament felt like an excellent promotional tool for cricket across Europe, but with the representation of one of cricket’s super-powers in England, could the teams who need the coverage to grow their domestic game be obscured by England’s shadow?
Finally, could we now see a dynasty of English dominance in the ECL? Of course, the standard set by the Netherland and Scotland at international level has never been higher, but there is still a large performance gap between them and the England side, could we see this reflected in the quality of the club cricket? Naturally those invested in the game at club level in associate nations will play very hard, and those teams will be bolstered by the inclusion of their international players which will raise their game, but with a larger player base in England and more resources directed at coaching, there are inevitably more talented cricketers.
These concerns may never be realised, and in which case the ECL is only going to go from strength to strength and will fufill Daniel Weston’s goal of making cricket a popular summer sport across the continent.
Whilst we’re here, two things remain unknown at the time of writing about the teams at this year’s event. Firstly, the identity of Russia’s representative, the Russian Cricket Federation’s website has been down for some time and the identity of their current domestic champion is anybody’s guess. Secondly, as eluded to earlier there is one federation who is yet to be announced. With the Netherlands, Scotland and England on board, it would be fitting for the final team to be Europe’s other top dog and full member in Ireland, whose current champions CIYMS Belfast boast test cricketer Mark Adair, and with five sides from Europe’s ODI nations, highly competitive cricket would be guaranteed.
On the flip side, there may be some very disappointed associate boards who will not be represented in the 2020 edition, in particular Czech Republic, Austria and Channel Islands Jersey and Guernsey, all of whom had good years in 2019 and would have hoped to capitalise by getting a team on Europe’s big stage. That said, with 32 ICC members in Europe and only 16 berths in the ECL, there was going to be disappointment. There’s plenty of room to expand anyway.
ECL ’20 is going be absolutely nuts.