Future of counties' £1.3million Hundred payments unclear despite announcement of broadcast deal

GEORGE DOBELL: While the ECB announced the current broadcast deal would continue until the end of 2028, an extra four years on top of the previous agreement, The Cricketer understands the distribution deal with the counties has not been confirmed

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There is no guarantee the first-class counties will receive the annual payment of £1.3million from the ECB despite an extension to the broadcast deal with Sky.

While the ECB announced the current broadcast deal would continue until the end of 2028, an extra four years on top of the previous agreement, The Cricketer understands the distribution deal with the counties has not been confirmed.

Under the previous deal, the first-class counties (and the MCC) were guaranteed £1.3m a year each in return for allowing The Hundred to take place without their involvement. The new deal has been announced before any such agreement has been reached.

At the same time, there is increasing concern about a hole of anything up to £50m within the game's finances as a result of inflationary pressures. As a result, the ECB has announced a review into the finances of the game, leading some to fear there will be an attempt to cut those £1.3m annual payments. But with Vitality Blast and Royal London Cup attendances hit, in part, by scheduling issues created by the prioritisation of The Hundred, the counties are likely to fight hard for an increase on those payments.

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Sky Sports have extended their deal with the ECB until 2028 [Getty Images]

The counties remain well-placed to argue for a continuation – or even an increase – on the previous arrangement. Not only does the ECB constitution demand their approval of any competition that does not involve them, but they own the media rights for matches on their grounds. With that in mind, some were surprised the media deal was announced before any such agreement was reached.

The extension to the broadcast deal was already somewhat controversial. While the financial security was welcomed, there was some consternation from within the county game that the deal represented something of a fait accompli weeks before the appointment of a new ECB chair and chief executive.

In particular, it was feared the agreement, which appeared to commit the game to four more years of The Hundred and a fixture list which is bursting at the seams, would prevent the new ECB management from starting their tenure with a clean sheet of paper.

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Counties are paid £1.3m each per year in the deal which runs until 2024, as part of agreement for The Hundred to take place [Getty Images]

There are three people still in the running for the role of ECB chair. They are Martin Darlow, who has been filling the role on an interim basis; Alan Dickinson, who is also on the board and was previously treasurer at Surrey; and Richard Thompson, who is currently chair of Surrey. Darlow is seen as the continuity candidate and Thompson the choice of the counties, most of whom want anything but continuity.

The ECB have made some attempts to appease the counties already. They announced that two first-class county chairs will sit in on ECB board meetings in future to ensure the interests of the professional game are better represented.

The governance changes brought in under the Colin Graves and Tom Harrison tenure saw the ECB insist on independence of the board, which meant nobody with a current role at a county could be involved. That led to a concern over a lack of specific knowledge about the business of cricket on the board.

 


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