BIG INTERVIEW: Chairman Warren says Northants will consult supporters over Strauss review

"At the right time we will consult our supporters, we will do a forum and explain everything… I need to protect the club, that is my priority”
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Gavin Warren says Northants shareholders and season-ticket holders will be consulted before the club votes on the recommendations made in Andrew Strauss's controversial High Performance Review of English cricket.

And the County chairman has made it clear that his and the club's board's focus will always be what is best for Northamptonshire, insisting: "I need to protect the club, that is my priority."

Strauss's HPR was revealed last month, and in it the headline calls were that he felt the number of matches should be cut from both the County Championship and Vitality Blast, from 14 in both competitions to 10.

Northants supporters will be consulted by the club ahead of the counties' vote on the Strauss high Performance ReviewNorthants supporters will be consulted by the club ahead of the counties' vote on the Strauss high Performance Review
Northants supporters will be consulted by the club ahead of the counties' vote on the Strauss high Performance Review

The proposed schedule changes require the support of at least 12 of the 18 first-class counties, with a vote to be held after a further period of consultation.

That vote is due to be held at the end of November, but is likely to be delayed until the new year.

Some clubs have already made it clear they are against Strauss's recommendations.

Warren says he and the County board are considering everything that has been proposed and he will be consulting with the club's fanbase when the time is right.

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Gavin Warren - Northamptonshire CCC End of Season Dinner 2021 at The County Ground on September 29, 2021 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Andy Kearns/AK Images)NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Gavin Warren - Northamptonshire CCC End of Season Dinner 2021 at The County Ground on September 29, 2021 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Andy Kearns/AK Images)
NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Gavin Warren - Northamptonshire CCC End of Season Dinner 2021 at The County Ground on September 29, 2021 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Andy Kearns/AK Images)

"What we need to do is understand it first, before we go out there and say 'this is what we think', because there is so much around it,” admitted Warren. "Things are not going to change for 2023, that is for sure.

"As for 2024, there is a lot of work that needs to be done before any decisions are made, and I think we are a long way off that.

"Can I see anything being sorted before the end of the year? I don't think I can, because we have to look at what the financial impact is for the game, and my primary concern is that I am responsible for my county, Northamptonshire.

"And that is on and off the field as well."

T20 crowds were up at the County Ground in 2022T20 crowds were up at the County Ground in 2022
T20 crowds were up at the County Ground in 2022

And Warren admits he is still to be convinced too much county cricket is currently being played, both red and white ball, as Strauss suggests.

"The paper was very much about Team England, but what we are very much interested in is the development of English cricket, and there is a key difference there," said Warren.

"Of course we want our national team to be the best, but also you have to get the foundation right, you have to get the pathways right and we are certainly excited about a few of our youngsters at the club.

"People say 'we play too much cricket', but that is a bit of a throwaway answer, and I am still not convinced by that, I need more evidence."

Northants head coach John SadlerNorthants head coach John Sadler
Northants head coach John Sadler

Referring to the workload of the Northants players in particular, Warren will take on board the expert opinion of head coach John Sadler, and he suggests one solution could be counties employing more players rather than simply reducing the fixture list.

"Do the players play too much? They probably do," accepted Warren.

"Do we need to rest them? The feedback from John Sadler is yes we do, so the answer to that might be 'okay, let's get a bigger squad'.

"Is there an argument for clubs to carry those bigger squads so we can rest players more? To make them fresher. These are all things we need to discuss."

It had long been mooted that the review would call for a reduction in Championship cricket, but the call for the Blast to also be reduced from 14 games to 10 - with all counties losing two money-spinning home fixtures - was a big surprise.

And not one that Northants, or Warren, are particularly keen to see come to fruition.

Andrew StraussAndrew Strauss
Andrew Strauss

"Do I want to reduce the number of Blast games? Of course I don't, because crowds are up and it is our role to put on top-class cricket in the county," said Warren.

"Crowd-wise, we had great attendances (in 2022) and we had to lock the doors for a couple of games.

"Nationally, the T20 attendance was down, but we were up at about 85 per cent occupancy or whatever it was, which is really good.

"The problem we have in the modern era is all the franchise cricket that is going on, with the IPL, the South Africa tournament, the UAE, Florida, where players are now getting sucked out and playing in these tournaments.

"That is the threat we have, that we lose the best players."

For many supporters of English county cricket, and plenty of Northants followers, the elephant in the room is of course The Hundred.

Thanks to the huge investment from the ECB and broadcasting companies the controversial competition is seemingly untouchable, and effectively takes out the whole of August in the calendar.

There has been no red ball cricket played in August in either of the past two seasons - with the only county cricket played being the One Day Cup - which Warren accepts is a ridiculous scenario.

And although the Northants chairman knows the ECB aren't going to offload their own product, he does feel there could be room for a little tinkering.

"The Hundred is not going anywhere, because it is such a big asset to Sky," said Warren. "It is locked in with the TV schedule, so that is going nowhere.

"I think the only thing we could do with The Hundred is look at the schedule of it, and potentially reduce the length of it by a week, or a few days, so that it only lasts for three weeks.

"If we are genuine about red ball cricket, then we need to be playing it in August.

"But they also then say they want it (the Championship) to be best versus best, but often the best players are not available anyway because they are playing for England.

"It is such a conundrum. Have we got opinions? Yes, we have a lot at the minute.

"But there is no point talking to and addressing our members, and we still call them members, they are our fans, because we are still going through the impacts of the High Performance Review, and what it means for us as a county."

One thing Warren is promising Northants faithful is that no stone will be left unturned to make sure the best decision is made for the good of the club as a whole when it comes to the vote.

"The vote is set for November, we are working towards November," he said. "Do I think we will vote in November? I think it is 50/50. I am certainly not ready to vote, but here we are in mid-October, six weeks away.

"So things might change in the space of six weeks.

"It is an absolute thorough process and we will do our proper due diligence on it, because I need to protect the club, that is my priority.

"At the right time we will consult our supporters, we will do a forum and explain everything to them, and you have to do that. They are the club's fans and you have to respect those fans.

"I have had a load of messages from people asking when I am going to speak, when I am going to talk to them, and I haven't got back to them yet because I am not ready to.

"When I am ready, Ray (Payne, CEO) is ready and John (Sadler) is ready then we will do, because it will be a cricketing decision as well.

"I have spoken to John quite a lot about it over the summer, and he has to have a massive input into it as well, because it is cricket versus finances and they have to balance each other out.

"It is all about the club being stronger for it, not weaker, that is the key thing."

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