Financial threat to obstructionist counties
Counties delaying the ECB's plans for a new domestic T20 competition could be penalised according to a new document circulated by the ECB.
While the ECB has previously guaranteed counties a minimum payment of £1.3m a year, they have now warned that only those counties which have signed their media rights over to the ECB will be eligible for such a fee. "Each First-class county which has signed the media deed would receive a guaranteed minimum annual sum," the document states.
They have not provided a deadline for the agreement but it could be interpreted as an attempt to ramp up the pressure on counties with reservations over the ECB's plans ahead of what might well prove to be a pivotal vote.
County chief executives and chairmen meet on March 27 when they will discuss a proposed change to the constitution of the ECB. The current constitution states that: "The board shall not have the power to deprive a first-class county club of the right to participate in all first-class county competitions authorised by the ECB."
If the new competition is to be authorised, two-thirds of those first-class counties will have to agree that such wording is changed to allow competitions that do not involve all 18 counties. It is anticipated that the vote will take place in April.
It also transpires that county players appearing in the new competition will have to repay some of their salary to their counties. And, while it has previously become apparent that England's Test players will not be available to appear in the competition, they will be used in the marketing and promotion of the competition.
The key points are these:
- Test matches will be played during the window for the new competition. The document says this means: "Test Players are not anticipated to play in the new competition if selected in the relevant Test squads."
- The intended start date of the new competition is July 24, 2020, with the final scheduled for August 30. The Blast is likely to begin at the end of May.
- The competition will consist of 36 games played in a 38-day window. Every game will be televised and each team will host four games.
- The domestic 50-over competition will continue at the same time despite the absence of the best 96 limited-overs cricketers; an average of five per county. That means, according to the ECB document, that "there is likely to be a requirement to play at out-grounds for counties whose venues are used by new teams."
- County coaches are to be made available to coach the new teams if their county employers are willing to release them.
- Each of the eight new teams will have a 15-man squad for the new competition. There will be three overseas players per squad.
- Each team is to have a set player budget to be spent in the draft and, at the draft, 13 players will be selected per team. Two players per squad will be deemed "wildcards" and will be selected after the group stages of the T20 Blast (the existing T20 competition contested by all 18 counties). The intention, the ECB states, is "to reward in-form players not originally picked up in the draft and to link the narrative between the Blast and the new competition."
- There will be six salary bands (A-F, with A the most expensive) with two players selected per team from each band, apart from the lowest band (F) from which three will be selected. Teams will draw lots before each round of the draft to determine who gets first pick. There will be a 24-hour trade period following the draft so teams can swap one or two players from within the same group. Overseas players will be able to pick a salary level at A, B and D grades only.
- It is proposed that teams could retain a maximum of eight players and a minimum of four players into the second year of the competition.
- It is the "the strong recommendation" of the marketing companies involved in the launch of the competition that it features "new team (i.e. non-county based) brands, to drive reappraisal and differentiation from existing cricket."
- All commercial and ticketing matters will be centrally organised. Revenues will be taken centrally. Venues will be paid a staging fee and be allowed to keep hospitality and catering revenue.
- Venues will be chosen according to their capacity, transport links, catchment area, facilities and relationship with their local authority.
- A new sub-committee of the ECB Board, comprising a chairperson and independent directors bringing specialist skills would oversee the tournament design and implementation. A new central division within the ECB would be formed to run the tournament.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo.