Finalized proposals to go to county vote feature six-team Premier League | The cricketer

GEORGE DOBELL: It’s perhaps the changes to the Championship that will be the most controversial. They seem to feature a significant drop in the number of games – from 14 per season to 10 in most cases – although there is room for some play-offs

A six-team first division is among the most eye-catching proposals to come out of the ECB’s High Performance Review, led by Andrew Strauss.

The proposals, which also include playing the national 50+ competition as a knockout tournament and a return to a T20 competition contested mainly on Friday evenings, will be presented to the 18 first-class counties in the coming days. A minimum of 12 counties will have to vote for them if the changes are to go into effect.

It is perhaps the changes to the championship that will be the most controversial, however. They appear to feature a significant drop in the number of games – from 14 per season to 10 in most cases – although there is room for some play-offs which could increase the number.

And while there has been talk of a second and a third division, implying promotion and relegation, it seems instead that two conferences of six teams each will exist under the first division. These conferences would either produce one team each that would be promoted, or one team each that would play a play-off to see which team wins the promotion.


A restructuring of the County Championship will be voted on by the 18 first-class teams in the coming days [Getty Images]

Several counties, under pressure from their members, have already indicated that they would be reluctant to accept a reduction in the number of games, with others indicating that they could tolerate a reduction to 12 per season. Those behind the review hope the promise of better competition programming will persuade counties to back the idea.

With the 50 most contested competition in April, it is expected that the Championship season will not start until several weeks later than has been the case in recent years. The Blast would then be played on Fridays, with no reduction in the number of scheduled home games, allowing the Championship to be played primarily during the warmer summer months.

It is still unclear what cricket will be played alongside The Hundred in August. Among the proposals is a first-class regional competition featuring players not used by white ball teams.


The Royal London Cup 50-over competition is proposed to become a knockout tournament in early summer [Getty Images]

Counties are likely to be sensitive to the feelings of their members. Not only are 15 of them owned by their members, but they are already prepared for the impact of the cost of living crisis and can ill afford to lose their membership revenue.

Somerset recently announced that their energy bills have risen from £125,000 a year to £465,000 a year, while Leicestershire says theirs could rise by 850%.

The high performance review comes as the ECB also begins a financial review. This is expected to focus on soaring central costs – the ECB now employs over 450 people with an average salary of over £100,000 a year – and lead to a significant number of redundancies.

The ECB foresees a shortfall of around £50m in its plans due to inflationary pressures.

There is also no agreement at this stage on how much to pay the counties for their deal to allow The Hundred to continue. For the first five years (until 2024) they have received and will receive £1.3m a year for this but, despite the broadcast deal being extended, there has been no clarification. on additional funding.

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