Richard Gould talks Surrey, cricket’s challenges and The Hundred as he prepares to leave The Kia Oval

Surrey chief executive Richard Gould sat down with Sky Sports’ Mike Atherton for a wide-ranging interview as he prepares to leave the club after a decade at the helm.

Ahead of day two of Surrey’s LV= Insurance County Championship match with Middlesex, Gould, who will leave The Kia Oval this summer to take over as CEO at Bristol City, spoke about the difficulties the county have faced during the coronavirus pandemic and the challenges for English cricket moving forward.

Gould has also been critical of the ECB and, in particular, The Hundred in recent years and explained why that was and why he is now hopeful that the 100-ball competition will be a success. What the interview in full in the video at the top of the page.

Surrey’s on-field performances during his tenure

“We always want to win more trophies, we were runners up in the T20 last year, we had three back-to-back Lord’s finals where we came runners up with is disappointing. The difficulty for a county club is where we sit in the pecking order now.

“We pride ourselves in the quality of players we develop and bring on and play for England. In the game here today (vs Middlesex), there is a handful of players who will play for England against New Zealand and there are another group of players who are just on their way back from the IPL. In terms of the production line and quality of players, we are second to none.

💬When central contracts were first brought it, the assumption was when they weren't playing for England, they would play for their county.💬

Outgoing CEO Richard Gould talks to @Athersmike about Surrey's on-field performances during his tenure, in a wide-ranging interview.

“You’ve got Jason Roy, Tom Curran, Sam Curran who are not playing in this game. The issue is, how much time do we get to see those players? When central contracts were first brought in the assumption was, when they weren’t playing for England, they would play for their county.

“Now they will play for their county if they are not playing for England, if they’re not being rested for England, if they’re not playing in the IPL and they’re not playing in The Hundred. That, I can assure, is quite a frustrating place to sit.”

The Hundred

“Having spent time at Somerset before coming here and having grown up in club football, I see the strength of having proper clubs in the communities, working across a variety of different aspects.

“When you look at any club, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a county club or a local club, they’re developing players, they’re a heart of a community, they got facilities which then act as a community hub, they have a huge amount of support and I think those elements can sometimes be undervalued when you’re looking from on high.

💬That did come as a bit of a shock.💬

Richard Gould explains why he has been critical of The Hundred but the outgoing Surrey CEO tells @Athersmike that he hopes the tournament is a success.

“When franchise teams appear, all they tend to do is skim the cream off the top; their idea of a player-development pathway is a chequebook and I think we need to value what county clubs, or any club within the community, actually provides.

“I wasn’t a lone voice (in opposing The Hundred). There was a meeting in Nottinghamshire, six or seven years ago, where the counties looked at the options and decided – with a significant majority – that the preference was for a Premier League T20, county-based with promotion and relegation.

“That didn’t fit the template that was preferred by the ECB and they did a little bit more investigation, did some valuations and they put forward a proposal that cricket was more valuable without the counties and they offered an amount of money for the counties to stand aside for a period during the summer for new teams to be created. That’s how that was done.

“The Hundred is a later arrival, in truth, because the original arrangement with broadcasters was for a T20 competition. It was then decided that we were going to have a fourth format and yeah, that did come as a bit of a shock. The reason it came as a bit of a shock is that, as counties, we were invited to a meeting at Lord’s, we were sat down in a room, we were told that a fourth format is going to be issued and whilst we were in the room, the press release was sent out.

“For any reasonable person, that felt like a bit of an ambush and therefore a negative response from some was going to be due.

“I hope (some of the counties haven’t signed their death warrant) and I don’t think so. Cricket is ever-changing and, in part, that’s its strength but it’s also its weaknesses. If you take football, you have four tiers of professional football, maybe five, and that structure has not changed. The valuation of the media rights and where those media rights go has changed over time but you have that structure and the teams compete within it and go up and down.

Surrey vs Middlesex

May 22, 2021, 10:55am

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“I think within the county system we’ve got something similar and let’s see what goes on. We hope The Hundred is a great success, we hope that every match here plays to a sell-out attendance and we’ll be doing our absolute utmost to make sure that is delivered.”

Biggest challenges for English cricket

“There is a lot of clutter in the season now, never more so. I don’t know how that’s going to play out. With four formats domestically, three formats internationally, everybody wanting their own window; I don’t understand at the moment how we’re going to fit that.

“During The Hundred, we’ve got a lot of our best players hopefully playing here for the Oval Invincibles, a lot of our good players playing elsewhere in other franchise teams, but we are continuing to play as Surrey, probably bereft of 12, maybe 13 or 14 of our best players, and that’s going to be difficult. Not just for us but for other counties.

“We only have a finite number of resources, whether that is time, number of players, number of venues and the allocations of those resources will decide the success of those various projects that we’ve got going.”

England vs New Zealand

June 4, 2021, 10:15am

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IPL games in England and Test cricket

“That would be fun. We all want more, don’t we, to a certain extent? I think that is in part because we see a demand for cricket, we see the demand with Sky and it being a popular part of the package, we see sold-out crowds here and we see the variety of conflicts that are in play.

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“The one enduring element is Test cricket. I know sometimes it’s seen as slightly unfashionable to be a supporter of Test cricket but throughout my time here, Test cricket has only got more and more popular in terms of demand for tickets. Whenever we put something on sale, it is always Test match cricket that sells out first.

“Sometimes people look at the IPL or other tournaments and go ‘well, that’s what is creating the value’. When I look at my maths and I look at the broadcast revenue, ticket sales and hospitality and sponsorship, each Test match is worth in the region of £40m to £45m. It’s hugely valuable to the game and this is where it comes back to the franchise elements, they only take the cream off the top, Test match cricket funds the entire game.”

Watch day three of Surrey vs Middlesex in the County Championship from 10.55am, Saturday on Sky Sports Cricket.

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