Reform Group outlines plans for the future of English cricket
The Cricket Reform Group (CRG), the self-appointed body headed by Michael Atherton and Bob Willis, last night published its manifesto for the future of the game in England. Entitled Making English Cricket Great - For Everyone, the document is a detailed top-to-bottom shake-up of the club and county structure.
Many of the CRG's proposals have been aired in public in recent months. In essence the document calls for a reduction in the amount of first-class cricket, a cull in the number of professional players from 450 to 276, a strengthening of links between clubs and counties, and an increase in the number of centrally contracted players from 12 to 24.
One of the most controversial ideas doing the rounds - the scrapping of several existing first-class counties - was notable by its absence. The CRG would achieve the reduction in the number of players by limiting each county to a squad of 14, and the reduction in the amount of first-class games would enable most players to turn out for club sides on six or seven weekends.
The County Championship would also be radically changed, with a six-team premier division underpinned by two regional divisions. The Twenty20 Cup would continue, but limited-overs devotees would be offered two midweek competitions - a knockout and a league.
The CRG also recommends ending the influence of the First Class Forum on the ECB's management board. "We passionately believe that a more streamlined management board must be given full control of the running of the game," the document says. "The financial monopoly of the first-class counties must be challenged in order that the England team and the grassroots of the game, especially, receive greater financial support."
A delegation from the CRG met David Morgan, the ECB chairman, his deputy Mike Soper and John Carr, the board's director of cricket operations, last week, and the ECB will consider the group's suggestions before making any formal reply. County chairmen were sent a copy of the report last night.