County news November 23, 2011

ECB considers Championship reduction

The ECB will consider a proposal to reduce the County Championship season to 14 matches from 2014 having received recommendations from the review into the English domestic game while a return of 50-over cricket is imminent.

The review was led by David Morgan, the former ECB chairman and ICC president, and was presented to the board on Wednesday at Lord's. If the recommendations are accepted in full, and another presentation will be made at the next board meeting in January before a vote, the 2014 season would also compromise ten 50-over matches - to bring the county game into line with the international arena - and 14 Friends Life t20 games, which is an increase on the 10 matches set for the 2012 season.

Losing from one competition and adding to another is an example of compromises Morgan has felt he needed to make having gained input from over 300 people - including players, media, spectators and sponsors - while compiling his report. It also means there will not be a drastic reduction in the volume of cricket played.

There were no immediate recommendations over how to achieve the cutting down of four-day matches although another attempt to introduce a conference, or three-tier, structure has been suggested. However, the retention of two divisions is also possible with counties no longer playing all opposition home and away.

In 1997, the Raising the Standard report led by Lord MacLaurin, the ECB chairman, proposed a conference structure including play-offs but it didn't gain widespread support and the current two division set-up was implemented for the 2000 season. Then again, in 2007, the Schofield Report, implemented following the Ashes whitewash, highlighted the volume of Championship cricket but no action was taken. A year ago another proposal to slim the Championship to 14 matches was rejected.

Creating a more understandable and coherent fixture list was also part of the review and Morgan has recommended that t20 cricket is played on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays, and that County Championship matches begin on Fridays in the early season, on Sundays in mid-season, and Mondays at the end of the season.

"There are divergent opinions concerning the optimum structure to strengthen the domestic game," Morgan said. "There was however a consistency of views expressed that the success of the Team England and Cricket Partnerships departments within ECB should be complimented with the strengthening of the department responsible for the domestic professional game.

"The volume of domestic cricket has made it impossible to schedule consistent start dates and I believe that spectators, players and administrators alike would welcome the certainty which a predictable programme would provide.

"I am convinced that there are no substantive commercial benefits evident from a 40-over format in comparison with the 50-over format which is the standard for international one-day cricket. I have therefore concluded that the board should adopt the 50-over format from 2014. I am pleased that the Board recognised the value of the extensive consultation which has been central to this review and appreciate the kind comments expressed by the board on my initial presentation."

David Collier, the ECB chief executive, said: "The board was highly impressed with the diligent consultation and findings presented by David Morgan. It is clear from David Morgan's initial work that in order to compliment the Team England goal of mirroring success in the Test and Twenty20 formats at the forthcoming World Cups, the format of ODI cricket must be introduced within domestic cricket from 2014.

"To support and strengthen the domestic county game, 14 FL t20 matches should be played, and to provide preparation time for high quality four day cricket, the County Championship should be reduced to 14 matches. The board unanimously endorsed the Morgan Review comments to create an appointment to view with consistent start dates in the County Championship and FL t20 competitions."

Another of Morgan's recommendations involves the salary cap that each county operates under and he has said that this should be reduced slightly, with an increase in the incentive payments for fielding younger players.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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