Ashley Giles: City-based T20 is cricket's Brexit, says Bears boss

Ashley Giles at Warwickshire's pre-season photocall at Edgbaston
Ashley Giles (right) returned to Warwickshire in December after two seasons coaching Lancashire

Warwickshire director of cricket Ashley Giles says it is time to stop debating about why England's proposed new city-based T20 competition will not work, and concentrate on making it a success.

Plans for a new eight-team tournament from 2020 were announced on Monday.

"I compare it to Brexit," said Giles, who this winter rejoined his old county, who now play their T20 cricket under a city brand as Birmingham Bears.

"We've made a decision. Let's get on with it."

The former Warwickshire and England spinner, 44, part of his country's 2005 Ashes-winning side, added: "We've seen these vehicles work well round the world. T20 is here to stay.

"It should protect the whole game. It's not in anyone's interest to see counties go out of business.

"The best players in fewer teams, in front of big audiences in big stadiums and watched by bigger TV audiences, can only be good for the game.

"If we're to get this through, which I think we have, let's stop talking about why it's not going to work and how we can make it work as well as anywhere in the world."

Speaking at Warwickshire's pre-season press day, Giles had alongside him two of his England stars: Chris Woakes, who has been signed to play for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League, and Ian Bell, who helped Perth Scorchers win Australia's Big Bash League in January.

English T20 must learn from experience - Woakes

Woakes says English cricket will only find out whether an extra city-based competition will work alongside the current T20 Blast once they have tried it.

"I don't know how the scheduling is going to work," said the 28-year-old all-rounder.

"There will be quite a lot of T20 cricket, but we will have to learn from how it goes. We'll soon find out whether it needs to be reduced or not. Only experience will dictate that.

Chris Woakes
Chris Woakes helped Birmingham Bears to become the first 'city team' to win the T20 Blast in 2014

"It's a great idea and a great prospect for English cricket. We've seen it work in other countries. The IPL in India, and the Big Bash in Australia in particular, has brought in a huge number of new faces coming to cricket grounds. We want to get new people playing it and this is a step in the right direction.

"But if it can go on free-to-air, that's a huge factor, making it easily accessible for people watching on their sofa.

"I grew up watching Test cricket on Channel 4 and Channel 5. Get home from school, flick it on. We didn't have Sky. If that hadn't been the case, I might not have been here now."

Big Bash was all people talked about - Bell

Bears skipper Ian Bell saw the success of city-based cricket for himself when he spent a memorable six weeks down under with his family starring for the victorious Perth Scorchers.

And he believes that the fact that it was on terrestrial television is a huge factor.

"Free-to-air works brilliantly on terrestrial TV," he told BBC Sport. "All through the Christmas holidays, they're talking about it.

Ian Bell scored 231 runs in 10 innings for the victorious Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash
Ian Bell scored 231 runs in 10 innings for the victorious Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash

"I'm not sure how many countries have two T20 tournaments. The schedule is already pretty packed but, if cricket wants to keep pushing itself, we have to get into as many homes as we can.

"If it takes off like it has in Australia, it's something to look forward to. The first two years down under it wasn't really there but, six years on, it's a massive tournament.

"It surprised me the amount of kids and women there were in the ground. It's a bit different to an Ashes Test match, but my experience from Big Bash was that it's a great tournament to be involved in."

The end of the cricketing world as we know it?

Hampshire chairman Rod Bransgrove is quite clear on his views as to how the game should proceed, warning that the game "as we know it" could die.

Talking to a BBC Radio Solent supporters' forum on Wednesday, he said: "It's our job to give an audience what they want, to get involved and that's what this new competition does.

"County chairmen are now confronted with this decision to either do something now which will either ensure the future of the game that we love in all of its forms, or continue to watch dwindling crowds and basically the end of cricket as we know it.

"There is only one escape route for this game and that is to back the game all the young people and the families around the world are asking for."

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