30 Mar

Several county chiefs have urged the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to postpone the launch of the new 100-ball tournament to 2021 and redirect the funding to help county and clubs cushion the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ECB will hold several meetings this week to look at how to plug the financial gaps caused by the truncated cricket season. The season has been put on hold until May 28 but there is a feeling among many counties, some of which have started to furlough non-playing staff and begin discussions over wage cuts for players, and within the ECB that, even if The Hundred could get under way in July or August, it would be better not to launch it half-heartedly.

Tim Bostock, the chief executive of Durham, told talkSPORT: “Protecting The Hundred is important, although in the conversations I’ve had with the ECB, if it ends up being a two-month season, which is possible, a view will be taken about whether this is really the right time to launch The Hundred.”

About £90 million a year was due to be spent on The Hundred, including £40 million on marketing and £20 million on players and coaching staff (although some of that is contractual), however a significant amount could be diverted into an emergency fund. ECB officials are modelling how much they can save against how much will be lost by not running the competition.

ECB’s broadcasting deals with Sky and the BBC, which are worth about £200 million a year, could have room for manouver They are five-year deals and there is scope within the contracts to provide extra matches down the line or for the ECB to receive slightly less in the remaining years of the contracts.

Some counties have started to furlough their non-playing staff and discussions have begun with the Professional Cricketers’ Association and player agents over potential pay cuts for players.

County players’ salaries vary greatly with some of the youngest players earning about £18,000 a year while the most senior can earn up to about £160,000. Counties are able to claim £2,500 a month for each of their players through the government’s job retention scheme. There is a recognition though that the players are the most valuable asset to cricket and they need to be looked after so that they are ready to play cricket as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.

In parallel to the above discussions, major construction work at Lord’s (the Compton and Edrich stands) and the Oval (Peter May, Lock and Laker stands) is taking place, albeit with workers observing social distancing guidelines. If tighter restrictions are put in place by the government this could also impact this year’s internationals, The Vitality Blast and The Hundred tournaments

John Stephenson


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