ECB to resume funding of University cricket

MCC will hand over the Universities scheme in 2020 Getty Images

MCC and ECB have announced a new approach to the development and funding of University Cricket from 2020.

Under the arrangement, ECB will resume the funding of University Cricket following MCC's decision to end its support for the current programme in two years' time.

The decision ends months of uncertainty about whether a successful and proven pathway into first-class cricket will be protected and is sure to be widely welcomed within the game.

Both organisations will work together to develop a new scheme with input not only from the existing MCCU centres - involving six Universities identified as deserving of support - but also additional Universities, British Universities Colleges Sports (BUCS) and the first-class counties.

Discussions are already underway with a view to widening the scope of the existing programme which will extend opportunities in limited-overs cricket as well as providing greater support for elite women cricketers in higher education.

The current programme was initially set up as the University Centres of Cricketing Excellence (UCCE) by the ECB in 2000, with MCC taking over funding and administration in 2004.

Since then, MCC has invested over 7.5million in the six MCCUs, which are based at Oxford, Cambridge, Loughborough, Cardiff, Durham and Leeds/Bradford.

While MCC has been supporting the scheme, 18 MCCU cricketers have been selected to represent their native countries and 119 players have secured first-class county contracts.

The announcement follows a wider review by MCC of its cricket strategy. To enable ECB and the Universities to have sufficient time to make alternative arrangements, MCC has given more than two years' notice of its intention to end its funding of the scheme.

In that time, ECB will devise and fund the new programme with the continued aim of maximising opportunities for talented cricketers to combine a University education with furthering their aspirations for a career in professional cricket.

John Stephenson, MCC's assistant secretary (cricket) said: "MCC is proud to have been such a long-time supporter of an initiative that has helped in the development of a number of county and international players, including Sam Billings, Jack Leach, Toby Roland-Jones, Tom Westley and Monty Panesar.

"In addition to those who have made a career as professional players, there are many more who are contributing to the game in other ways as administrators, physios, coaches, community cricket champions and sponsors."

"While it is sad that MCC's investment will be coming to an end, the scheme is in very good shape and I hope that University cricket continues to thrive under the ECB."

MCC's retreat from the scheme emphasises that their financial priority is the development of Lord's, a matter which has been the constant source of debate in recent years.

David Graveney, a former chairman of selectors and now ECB's national performance manager, will oversee the ECB's approach.

He said: "Our continuing support for this programme reflects the ECB's long-term strategic plan for growing the game - Cricket Unleashed. We remain fully committed to delivering a scheme which will allow talented young players to maximise their cricketing potential without compromising their educational aspirations."

"We will be aiming to develop a new programme which continues to develop white-ball cricket as well as the red-ball game and provides greater opportunities for our most talented young women's cricketers too."