14 Aug

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has received a significant boost with the news that Australia are set to confirm their limited-overs tour in September.

Confirmation of the tour, which will see the sides play three ODIs and three T20Is, means England's men's team should be able to fulfil all 18 international fixtures which were scheduled ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the ECB should be able to avoid the bleak financial forecasts that were made ahead of the season.

However the ECB management recently warned the first-class counties that the next broadcast deal could be worth up to 50% less than the current deal due in part to less competition in the market meaning a period of cost-cutting is inevitable.

ESPNcricinfo understands that among the options being considered is a partial move away from Lord's St Johns Wood administrative base and a move away from Loughborough as a performance base to less expensive offices elsewhere.

While not the first time this has been considered, this time around there is not only a financial incentive, but a growing view that cricket is intent on becoming more inclusive for all aspects of society.

Thought will also be given to moving away from the National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough. While the centre has outstanding facilities, there are suggestions it is largely replicating those offered at various other major grounds.

Edgbaston, which is about to embark on the next stage of its redevelopment, is one location that is sure to be considered as an alternative for both the administrative and the performance set-ups. In the next few weeks, building work will begin at the ground on new residential and commercial premises which could easily be fitted as required by the ECB. Emirates Old Trafford is also likely to be considered.

The most likely conclusion at this stage is that ECB could set up hubs in different areas of the country in order both to cut costs and to improve its relationships with the counties. It seems the ECB are likely to follow other major companies - such as Channel 4, the BBC and HSBC - in moving away from London.

A reduction in the headcount at the ECB, which has risen sharply in recent years, also appears inevitable. As part of a likely restructure, the pay of some executives could also be cut.

While confirmation of the Australia tour will ease the ECB's most immediate concerns, future scheduling issues remain. Most pertinently the tours to India and South Africa between December 2020 and March 2021.There are no immediate prospects of senior tours to either Pakistan or West Indies - the sides which have so far toured England in far-from-perfect circumstances this summer - though it appears there is some thought towards extending the next England tour of West Indies, in early 2022, from two Tests to three.

John Stephenson


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