24 Mar

With a drastically reduced three-month season in the offing due to the coronavirus outbreak, cricket chiefs face a tough decision over which competitions to prioritise. The English Cricket Board (ECB) are compiling a series contingency plans based on the season starting in July, August or September, assuming the threat of the virus has passed.

Central to any plans will be the ECB's desire to stage fixtures included in the current broadcast rights deal, a £1.1 billion package, which runs between 2020-24. The T20 Blast remains a big money spinner for counties while the governing body has invested heavily in the success of The Hundred.

It is widely expected that England's international schedule, the T20 Blast and The Hundred, the most lucrative competitions in the calendar, will be prioritised.

Assuming the cricket is resumed at some point what do some of the main participants think is the correct approach to this curtailed season?

Glamorgan CCC

With just one international fixture scheduled at Sophia Gardens - the second T20I against Pakistan on 31 August - it is crucial for Glamorgan to maximise the revenue which the limited-overs game offers.

Director of Cricket at Glamorgan, Mark Wallace, told BBC Radio Wales Sport,

"The T20 Blast is massively important from an audience point of view, from a financial point of view it's the format which is played on television and if the Hundred gets missed, that's the opportunity to drive the game,"

"But we understand there's a huge amount of people who enjoy the Championship, there are also a lot of professional cricketers who concentrate on the Championship who could go through the season without playing a game.

"There's also the effect on the recreational game. Cricket is fighting for people's interest and there's concern over the junior game."


Essex CCC – County Champions in 2019

Cricket must be open to innovations says Essex CEO Derek Bowden.

County Championship holders Essex have proposed a regional four-day competition to replace the regular red-ball season

Chief-executive Derek Bowden feels a regional round-robin competition, which would underpin the Test team and uphold the format, could be the answer.

"There is an opportunity to be creative with the schedule, try and create opportunity from the crisis and be innovative about how we play the game and entertain," he told Sky Sports.

"Let's look at regional four-day cricket, maybe four or five regional competitions with round-robin four-day cricket.

"Spectators and members would love that and it would also give us some four-day cricket to support England's Test series in a very tight schedule.

"Essex could play Kent, Middlesex and Surrey, while Yorkshire could play Lancashire, Durham and one other team, maybe Nottinghamshire."


Durham CCC

Durham CEO Tim Bostock has been part of discussions between the ECB and the 18 first-class counties, drawing up prospective schedules of different lengths, when, or if, it is possible to get underway.

He warned that should the campaign be condensed into just August and September, “a view will be taken about if this is really the right time to launch The Hundred”.

“In a four-month and a three-month schedule, there’s plenty of county cricket, and enough county cricket to have a meaningful County Championship, which I think would be great news for our members,” he explained.


Middlesex managing director of cricket Angus Fraser has admitted he is open to the season extending into October.

“We can't play cricket in November, December, but there is talk about the season carrying on until the middle of October - and fair enough, if that's what it takes for the game to fulfil its obligations,” he said.

“The first priority for everybody is the greater social well-being of the community. But if we can carry on playing cricket till the middle of October – if that's what it takes for us, then that's what needs to be done.

Professional Cricketers Association (PCA)

PCA’s chief executive Tony Irish has backed the ECB's decision to delay this summer's county and international programmes until at least May 28.

Further statements from the ECB are expected with regard to the exact composition of the new-look calendar for men's and women's sides both domestically and internationally, but the head of the players' association insists his organisation is fully behind the decision for the collective wellbeing of the cricket community.

"Naturally, players have concerns around when they will be able to start playing again, about what the schedule will look like when cricket resumes and about employment security around their contracts. The PCA will represent them in dealing with these issues with the ECB and the counties and seek the right solutions and ones that are acceptable to the players."

Mike Atherton former England Captain and Sky Sports presenter

Atherton told Sky Sports  “The things that would have to be prioritised would be the revenue-driving games because clearly the game is going to face a short-term financial crisis over the next two or three months,” Atherton told Sky Sports. “Everybody will have cash-flow issues – county clubs, recreational clubs, the ECB and so on.

“So, they'll have to prioritise the revenue-driving games, which will be the international matches and then the white-ball one-day games after that, whether that be the Blast of The Hundred or whatever - if indeed we get any cricket this summer.

“The two domestic competitions that are most vulnerable would be those that drive revenue least and they are the domestic 50-over competition and the County Championship, which may have to be curtailed.”

Sir Alistair Cook – Ex-England Captain

In Cook's first full domestic season since calling time on his international career, he helped Essex scoop their second title in three years.

But the 35-year-old, the most prolific batsman in England's Test history, concedes the chances of being able to defend that success are dwindling.

Writing for The Sunday Times, he said: "Can we salvage the four-day competition? Possibly but that will demand that we all pull in the same direction.

"We may well be looking at an abbreviated tournament, with more back-to-back matches and stretching into early October (sometimes warmer than the second half of April when the season usually starts).

"We may, as a result, see more floodlit cricket and ticket prices will almost certainly have to be reduced. None of this is ideal but we all have to see the bigger picture -- for our sport and the country as a whole."

"I can say this because I have no financial interest in the outcome but it strikes me that those proposing that the authorities prioritise the most profitable parts of the English summer - The Hundred, T20 Blast and the national team - have a point."

John Stephenson


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