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HUW TURBERVILL: ECB and chief executives reach understanding a week after fractious meeting with chairmen
The ECB appear to have satisfied the counties after a fractious meeting last week
Peace in our time (at least for now). The county chief executives and the England and Wales Cricket Board had a ‘constructive’ and ‘excellent’ meeting on Tuesday about the future of English cricket, from 2020.
It looks as if there will definitely be a new tournament. What the meeting did not determine, however, is whether it will be T20 or ‘100’. But counties were delighted with the increased transparency from the ECB, with chief executives describing it as a potential ‘watershed moment’.
It followed on from a reportedly fractious meeting between county chairmen and the ECB the previous week. “A bloody nose” was how Mike Atherton in The Times reported it.
There had been considerable unrest going into the follow-up meeting. Chief executives wanted to be “shown the numbers”. They were concerned about the cost of the new tournament, believed to be £41m (up from the initial projections of £13m), not including the £1.3m per county per year. There was also scepticism about how much profit the ECB were telling the counties they would be making, and how much is earmarked for marketing the tournament (£6m), and for extras like fireworks and dancers. Some counties are already filling their grounds for Blast games, with considerably less marketing spend.
The message from the CEOs now is that there is still some analysis to be done, but that they were reassured that there will be greater transparency for the next few months. County chiefs now feel happier about the viability and vibrancy of the English domestic game from two years’ time. Counties’ fears that they will not be involved in the running of the new tournament, with everything being run from the centre, have also eased.
ECB chairman Colin Graves, left
Counties have also been assured that marketing spend on the three existing tournaments, the Championship, the One-Day Cup and the Blast will not suffer.
The ECB also received the message that there is no ‘them and us’ between chiefs of counties with Test grounds, and those without. “The counties are perfectly aligned,” an insider told me. “We all want to take the English game forward.”
There remains some scorn for The Hundred in the game, the feeling being that a new, fourth format is not needed. T20 is hugely popular in India (IPL) and Big Bash (Australia). But it now seems as if the counties will not kill the format itself.
If the roadmap for English cricket is not revealed by the next ECB board meeting on November 28, all parties are confident there should be agreement by Christmas.
Clare Connor’s high-performance group, the new tournament development group, the cricket committee chaired by Peter Wright, Wasim Khan’s working group and the Professional Cricketers’ Association still have plenty to discuss.
There remains lingering resentment from some counties that they will be turfed out of their own venues, be sent to outgrounds bereft of their best players, and be forced to play in a second-rate ‘county lite’ competition.
Traditionalists will be pleased that there is no appetite for a reduction in Championship cricket, however, so it will still be 14 matches. There have been reports that a Kookaburra ball will be tried in some games, preparing bowlers for overseas. Thankfully the pink ball seems to have been put back into its box.
Counties did want 16 Blast games (up from 14), with eight at home. It does not look as if this will be possible, though. And there is still some debate about if the Blast will be in a block, or split in two, sandwiching the new tournament.
The Times also reported that there is unease about the headcount at the ECB, which has reportedly gone up from 215 employees five years ago to 321 now.
The ECB will nevertheless be relieved at these developments. They hope to focus next year on the next stage of their Cricket Unleashed strategy.