England Women news January 31, 2012

Charlotte Edwards signs new sponsorship deal

Charlotte Edwards, the England Women captain, has signed a new sponsorship deal with Serious Cricket - an equipment and coaching supplier - allowing her to both enjoy the financial rewards her success warrants and extend her playing career without the concern that she ought to be looking to life after cricket.

On the face of it, the news that Edwards has signed a sponsorship deal might seem of little interest. That is just the sort of thing you would expect from a top international sports star, isn't it?

Well, yes and no. While the captain of the England's men's side would be expected to have such deals, the news that Edwards had agreed to something similar is quietly significant. It marks another small step on the road to professionalism of the England women's team.

Edwards, 32, is a fine cricketer with an excellent record. She is also a fine captain and has played a huge role in leading England to unprecedented success. For a substantial part of her tenure, she has led the best side in the world.

But, until very recently, England was in danger of losing some of their leading players. Some pursued careers with more stability and longevity, others simply found that the demands of trying to earn a living and playing international sport compromised them in both departments. The drop-off rate for young cricketers giving up the game shortly after leaving education was alarming. The lack of security or income from cricket was a major problem. Edwards even had to fund the purchase of some of England clothing and her accommodation on her first tour.

Then the Cricket Foundation's Chance to Shine scheme started to provide employment for a group of leading women cricketers. It meant they were required to coach in clubs and schools to spread the gospel of cricket, but also ensured they had a benevolent employer who would ensure they had time to train and tour as necessary. The ECB also supplies monthly payments to 20 women cricketers and recently introduced tour fees and incentivised appearance fees.

Perhaps more importantly, Edwards' new deal - in addition to Chance to Shine - will provide an incentive to other young women who are considering a career in the game to take the plunge and pursue cricket as a profession.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo