Kent wary of Surrey dominance if clubs join forces for The Hundred

Kent chief executive Simon Storey Getty Images

Kent want to be at heart of discussions about a joint-venture team with Surrey in The Hundred to ensure their fans can identify with a club based at The Oval.

Kent chief executive officer Simon Storey, who joined the club in January after a six-year stint as chief executive at Derbyshire, saw it as imperative that the benefits of The Hundred competition, starting in 2020, outweighed any risks to Kent, particularly if the men's team is to be based so far from its heartland in Canterbury.

His comments follow speculation that The Oval could be scrapped as a venue after the ECB last month won support from 17 of the 18 first-class counties for playing conditions for The Hundred, with only Surrey understood to have voted against.

"With the new tournament, which is happening and will be launched next year, we need to make sure that the opportunity outweighs the threat," Storey said. "I think being at the heart of the debate and not just allowing it to happen is actually how we'll do that.

"It's really important that our members, our spectators, our fans, our sponsors and our partners can feel and identify with their team, which will be based out of The Oval - at least the men's team - so it's important that we're in that debate.

"We have a very strong relationship with Surrey and I speak and work regularly with Richard Gould, the chief executive. We're within 18 months of that new tournament starting. There's a lot to do but we see it as an extremely important tournament for Kent to be part of, albeit within the confines of that joint board that will be running, and we're going to make sure that we're part of that board."

The new format involving eight city-based teams will feature 100-ball innnings for each side, with a change of ends every 10 balls and bowlers allowed to deliver five or 10 consecutively out of a maximum of 20. Strategic time-outs for the bowling side and a 25-ball Powerplay will also be included at the start of each innings. A player draft is expected to be held in the autumn.

Storey suggested Kent would push to host games for the equivalent women's competition at its Beckenham ground.

It remains to be seen how The Hundred will affect the domestic 50-over competition, which will be played concurrently.

"There will be a 50-over competition, so there will be more cricket on offer," Storey said. "One of the things we're going to need to do is make sure that we bring some new consumers and some new cricket fans for the new tournament.

"But I also think that the new tournament needs to attract existing fans as well, and I think that was something that perhaps was lost along the way, that we are in danger of losing our current cricket fans in creating a new tournament entirely separately.

"Personally I think that we have to ensure that the two co-exist and I think we need to look at other sports to see how they do that, and we need to make sure that for those players and those spectators that aren't taking part or watching The Hundred, that there's a credible and strong competition alongside it."

Kent head coach Matt Walker expressed his desire to coach the men's team in The Hundred, but admitted that the logistics could be a juggling act.

"Like all players, you like to be involved in something that's new, for sure," Walker said at the launch of Kent's County Championship season at The Spitfire Ground in Canterbury. "It's not something we've really sat down and discussed, how we're going to go about that, but my initial understanding was that the ECB want to employ English coaches into that format, which I think makes sense and I like the sound of that.

"We want to develop as coaches as much as the players want to develop as players. It's going to create a little bit of confusion and it's going to create a little bit of complications along the way as to that 50-over competition, and if you lose a number of players and a number of coaches, then it's going to take some sorting out.

"I'm sure every coach in the country would like to be involved in that, as every player would like to be involved as well."

Kent-born Walker, who played for the county for many years before becoming head coach in 2017, believed being involved in The Hundred could benefit players, coaches and their counties in other formats.

"If you're involved in a new team with different players and a different format, it's only going to improve you," Walker said. "It's always going to be great for you financially as a player, as it would be as a coach, but the upside that the players can bring back, and coaches can bring back - great knowledge, new experience, ways of doing things slightly differently - I think, is always a real benefit to the club."