P20 on the rocks as counties lose faith
The P20, English cricket's answer to the IPL, could be on the verge of being scrapped after more doubts surfaced about its viability.
The competition, which had been scheduled to be played over three weeks in June from 2010 onwards, has run into serious concerns over funding, while several counties are opposed to the drastic alteration to the English domestic schedule that would be required to make way for it. Doubts have also been raised over the ability of English teams to participate in the BCCI-run Champions League.
The matters have come to a head as counties discuss changes to the English domestic structure due to come into force from the start of next season. With the Champions League scheduled to be played from the second week of September, the ECB suggested finishing the 2010 season early in order to allow two counties to take part, and the introduction of a second T20 competition.
Several of the counties are concerned, however. Not only are they worried about the ECB's suggestion that the County Championship season be cut to 12 or 14 games, they are also concerned that the financial rewards originally suggested for participation in the P20 will not be forthcoming.
As things stand a variety of options remain on the table. The county chairmen and chief executives will meet at Lord's next week to discuss the possibility of playing next year's championship over three divisions or three conferences. But the majority of counties appear to feel that a two-division championship played over 16 four-day games is an essential part of the English schedule.
They will also discuss the viability of the P20. Though no firm decision has yet been taken, there is a clear waning of enthusiasm for the idea, with some clubs recommending a single - though extended - Twenty20 competition.
It transpires that, not only is there no firm deal from a broadcaster for the P20, but the sums mooted are much smaller than were originally suggested. For example, a county in the second division of the P20 could expect no more than £150,000 for their involvement, from which they would have to fund the inclusion of three overseas players. First division clubs would receive £250,000.
The counties are split over their participation in the Champions League. Though the promise of around £250,000 for the two qualifying counties is attractive, 16 counties will earn nothing. They are therefore asking themselves whether the rewards justify the cost.
As one county chief executive told Cricinfo: "There is a real danger that the Champions League is going to dictate the schedule for the whole English season. While it's clearly desirable that we do take part in the Champions League, there is not sufficient money at stake to see us arrange our schedule around it.
"It's an Indian competition. We don't have any stake in it. They've scheduled it for September this time, but who is to say they won't schedule it for August next time? They know it's during our season, but they don't care. The preference of the original working party was for only one Twenty20 competition, but we were told that the additional money was so significant that we had to embrace a second version.
"But we're growing uncomfortable about the details. There's no money on the table yet and the sums being talked about are not so great that they make these changes worthwhile."
George Dobell is chief writer of Spin magazine