The recently appointed chair of Surrey CCC has ambitious intentions that include a focus on the resident Hundred franchise.

 

In his youth, Oli Slipper acknowledges that signing a professional contract with Surrey was as good as it got for him as a cricket player. This was partially because it was the pinnacle of his brief playing career and mainly because it fulfilled a schoolboy’s goal.

He told Standard Sport, “I signed the same day as Ben Hollioake and Alex Tudor.” “You kind of realize there are levels—and then there are levels—in the nets when you sort of turn up.”

After nearly thirty years away, Slipper is back at the Oval. He is currently “struggling to get in the Fourth XI” at his amateur club, Weybridge, but more significantly, he has just taken on the role of Surrey’s new chair. Slipper has also had success in a somewhat longer and more successful second career in sports tech, media, and marketing.

Upon his return, Surrey is in excellent health, a lucrative pipeline for talent, and they are once again the county champions, but the overall game is in a state of change. That’s the reason his first instinct when we get down to talk about his goals for his stay on the balcony of the Oval Pavilion is to keep things as they are.

“My main concern is safeguarding Surrey’s interests in light of current events in the cricket world,” he states. He is specifically discussing long-term worries about the future of Test cricket, which the club’s revenue model depends on hosting, as well as, more urgently, the encroaching franchise cricket (more on that later).

 

Then there is what he calls the “No1 reason for the club to be here”, namely defending the County Championship once more. “We don’t see it as something that’s old-fashioned or will cease to exist,” he says. “You speak to players, it’s still the thing they want to win most. Speak to members, it’s what they want to win most. I’m a big believer in it.”

But with a business background as an investor, speculator, and gambler, this will not be a solely protectionist regime. There are expansionist aims too, none more explicit than his aspiration to bring Hundred team Oval Invincibles, of which he was until recently chair, in-house.

“My gut feel is I’d like it to be a Surrey-branded product and one that we could own,” Slipper says. “Other counties might not have the financial balance sheets to be able to provide the necessary investment that the game might need. [But] if we were in the position to do that and we felt it was the right thing to do, we might want to have complete ownership of it.”

All eight Hundred clubs are currently owned centrally by the ECB and merely affiliated to their closest counties, some like Surrey – who have a ground and core group of players in common with the Invincibles – more obviously than others. Slipper argues that Surrey ownership would ensure “more traditional members could feel engaged with it”, the club’s signed-up base by some margin the country’s largest at more than 19,000.

Consultations over the future of the Hundred are ongoing, with Slipper, whose day job is as executive chairman of media rights firm Pitch International, due to offer his tuppence along with the rest of the county chairs. He believes the horse has bolted as far as a return to a three-format domestic summer is concerned, with a “condensed window” short-form tournament here to stay, though whether that is T20 or hundred-ball is less important. To convince broadcasters, he warns, any change would have to produce a tournament “bigger and better than the Hundred… bigger razzmatazz, better players”.

On the latter point, he is yet to see a business plan of exactly how his Surrey takeover hope might work or how much it would cost but acknowledges that “external investment to fund player salaries” could well be a necessity, given the competition’s struggle to attract the best overseas talent this year.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Next Post

Jos Buttler questions World Cup ethics, and England is irritated by their "poor" outfield.

Thu Nov 30 , 2023
  Captain alarmed over suggestions that his players will have to be careful when fielding against Bangladesh in order to avoid injury Jos Buttler thinks the competition’s credibility may be jeopardized by the “poor” outfield where England and Bangladesh’s World Cup match is scheduled to take place on Tuesday. After […]

You May Like