The new Somerset CCC membership and pricing structure announced on October 18 caused a storm of protest on social media.

An explanatory statement on the club website the following day did little to stem the tide and attracted further criticism as it quantified only the lowest price increases.

Chief Executive, Lee Cooper has now issued an ‘open invitation’ to a Q&A session in the Colin Atkinson Pavilion at the County Ground at 7.30pm on Monday, October 30 where he will explain the thinking behind the announcement and answer questions.

This is the third Q&A session Lee Cooper has addressed in his three months at the club. In the first two Mr Cooper was refreshingly transparent and forthright in answering questions. The second was streamed live through Facebook and very well received.

I attended both Q&As and have come to the conclusion Lee Cooper’s appointment may mark a pivotal moment in the history of Somerset CCC.

The new Membership structure may be a striking harbinger of what is to come. That may sound a little apocalyptic but to date Mr Cooper has demonstrated two key things to me. He has a vision for the future of the club and he is razor sharp in his decisiveness.

At the Q&As Mr Cooper expressed a clear view that T20 is becoming a “separate sport” from red ball and fifty over cricket.

He saw two distinct and different audiences (and the beginnings of two separate sets of players) developing, one for each of the two “sports”.

He has now announced two distinct and different memberships for the club which fit perfectly with the view of the future he expressed at the Q&As. It will no longer be possible to simply be a member of Somerset CCC as a whole.

The main choices are either a curiously named ‘Club’ membership covering only Championship and 50 over cricket or a T20 membership.

To watch both as a member a supporter will have to hold both types of membership at a considerable hike in price compared with 2017 Platinum membership prices.

An increase of 16% or 26% depending on seating and in excess of 50% in the instance of Platinum joint members wishing to continue sitting in the Colin Atkinson Pavilion for T20.

As Mr Cooper has stated the costs of running a County Cricket club are rising. Top players are essential to the club and command large salaries whether to recruit or retain. Facilities need constant improvement. For instance, floodlights are now essential if the club is to attract lucrative international matches and attract broadcast income.

However, some proper explanation is required, and none has been forthcoming, for why Somerset now have with one exception the highest membership subscriptions in the country for those who wish to watch all forms of the game.

The price increases are so great in some cases, particularly for those who have traditionally sat in what will now be “premium” areas such as the Colin Atkinson Pavilion (it would seem there will be no ‘members only’ areas at T20 matches), they may cause or even force some hitherto Platinum members to choose between Championship and T20 membership and will change the cricket watching lives of many.

The potential implications for the future nature of the club are perhaps more fundamental. A seven match T20 pass did not confer membership rights. A T20 membership will. This will spread membership rights more equitably across the different groups of supporters.

However, it opens up the possibility of two distinct membership groups developing within the club each with very different interests as they separately support Mr Cooper’s two separate sports.

The, for some, prohibitive cost of having both types of membership may hasten that separation. At a time when Mr Cooper has been very clear about the critical importance of T20 cricket to the future of the club this is a development which may have ramifications for years to come.

Time moves on and T20 is changing cricket apace. It seems it is changing Somerset CCC too. We may be witnessing a quantum leap in that change as T20 moves more centre stage in the club. It is not a leap which will please many traditional members and the price rises may alienate some existing T20 supporters.

Given Mr Cooper’s commitment and hitherto adherence to transparency it is perhaps surprising that such a potentially far reaching change in the nature of Somerset CCC has happened in a ‘members’ club with absolutely no consultation or prior explanation. That and the eye watering increase in some prices may make for an interesting Q&A session.

Paul Baker

Paul posts as ‘Farmer White’ on, an independent forum for Somerset supporters.