One of the major disappointments surrounding the launch of The Hundred (Women’s Competition) has been the simultaneous end to the highly successful Kia Super League.
In a relatively short space of time (four years), the KSL developed a strong fanbase – as evidenced by the sea of orange / green / purple / etc shirts sported by supporters at matches – and was able to attract good sized crowds, including two sell-out Finals Days at Hove. In one fell swoop the ECB appeared to have abolished the whole concept and all the accompanying teams in favour of their glitzy new format.
Or had they?
We now know that the 8 new Centres of Excellence will operate in the following areas: North West (incorporating Lancashire), North East (incorporating Yorkshire), West Midlands, East Midlands (incorporating Loughborough University), South West & Wales (incorporating Somerset / Gloucestershire), South Central (incorporating Hampshire), London & South East (incorporating Surrey), and London & East.
While we don’t yet know who the host counties will be for each region, there was a STRONG hint from Clare Connor at the launch that Loughborough might well end up as the host for the East Midlands region – “The whole process within regions is open to any cricket-minded organisation,” she said. “It might be that within the East Midlands region, Loughborough University are the regional lead for that region. It’s not wedded to the county structure.”
When you put it like that, it becomes apparent that 6 of these Regional Centres have something important in common: they represent the old KSL franchises – with bonus extra teams in London & East and in the West Midlands.
It really is the KSL Mark Two – only this time, the teams will also be playing 50-over cricket (as was originally the intention for the KSL).
There is an added aspect to this. The “Centres of Excellence” are as yet unnamed, but they will need a rebrand ahead of their launch in 2020 – “Regional Centre” isn’t exactly the catchiest title!
The strength of the KSL was that each of the 6 teams was founded on strong, solid branding – see for example the Ageas Bowl (home of the Vipers) becoming known as the “Snake Pit”, or Western Storm adopting a song about combine harvesters as their team ditty.
So… why not use what you’ve already got? The South West & Wales region can be the “Western Storm” CoE. The South Central region can be the “Southern Vipers” CoE. Assuming the ECB have no objection to the use of county names, the London & South East region could even be the “Surrey Stars” CoE. Etc, etc, etc.
This would not only save a whole lot of time and effort, it would save the Regional Centres having to reinvent the wheel and come up with shiny new branding, when they’ve already got quite enough to be getting on with (we’re only about 6 months away from the start of the new season and there are a LOT of logistics to sort out before then, not to mention player recruitment!)
In fact arguably, in order for the Regional Centres to be any more successful than the Women’s County Championship at attracting spectators, they NEED to focus on branding, and not simply consider themselves to be running a slightly more updated version of Super Fours – i.e. a development competition only. This will, after all, be the premier 50-over competition (and possibly after 2021 the premier 20-over competition) being played in England. As I see it, it’s a no-brainer: use the brands you’ve already got to market these new teams.
In fact, the more I think about it, the more I’ve a sneaking suspicion (having looked at the layout of the new regions) that this might even be what the ECB had in mind all along. Maybe it was never about getting rid of the KSL altogether – maybe it was always about ensuring that the Women’s Hundred and the KSL (Mark Two) would be able to happily co-exist?