Salary bands in the Hundred are set to be cut by up to 20% for men's players when the competition launches in 2021.
Players were due to earn between £30,000 and £125,000 in the competition this year before the Covid-19 pandemic forced its postponement. Details are still being ironed out, but the range could now be cut to £24,000-£100,000 as English cricket comes to terms with the financial implications of a significantly reduced season.
"There's been up to 20% cuts to county contracts across the last few months - 17% for April and May, 20% for June and July, so far. So some sort of cut across the Hundred would make sense, keeping money in the game to support counties and county players as well," said Daryl Mitchell, chairman of the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA). "I don't think there will be any issues across that."
The 16 players picked at the top price in October's draft included Mitchell Starc, Steve Smith and David Warner - all of whom set their reserve price at £125,000 - and five domestic players: Moeen Ali, Liam Livingstone, Eoin Morgan, Jason Roy and Dane Vilas. While there may be some concerns over whether top overseas players will still want to play in the competition on a lower wage, it is widely recognised that it would be wrong to freeze the salary pot for the Hundred at a time when so many young county players are concerned about their contract status.
There is also a growing acceptance that some form of partial re-draft will be required for the competition. Contracts for the 2020 season were cancelled at the start of May after the tournament's postponement, and since then regular discussions have taken place between the PCA and the ECB about how the squads will look next year.
Under the Hundred's initial retention rules, teams would have been able to retain up to ten players from their 2020 squad for the 2021 edition, at a salary band negotiated with the player. A mini-draft would then have followed to allow teams to fill the gaps in their squads. There appears to be little appetite for a total re-draft, but also a sense that completely freezing squads will be impossible.
"It's a pretty difficult one from a PCA perspective," Mitchell said. "You've got 96 domestic players in the competition who had contracts for this year, and there's obviously 300 or so that haven't and would love to be a part of it.
"Opinion seems to be split as to whether these rosters should be rolled over or not. I think it's the right thing that there's not going to be a complete re-draft from start to finish, but I think there's going to be an element of retention from each of the teams from the squads they picked.
"I think you need to see what sort of T20 competition is possible this year and how that pans out. Obviously England central contracts will be decided at the end of September or early October, and we don't know what changes there might be from that. Then we need a little bit more clarity about the Future Tours Programme for next year, and also a little bit more clarity about the Kolpak situation for next year. There's so many moving parts around it at the moment."
There are 10 players who won contracts to play as domestic players in the Hundred who are highly unlikely to be eligible to do so next year, Brexit permitting, with some less clear on their status having qualified through EU passports. Discussions are ongoing about that issue, including the possibility that their spots in the Hundred could be frozen for next year, but the legality of that move is unclear.
"There's been things discussed [about that]," Mitchell said. "Whether you can make exceptions for these guys, I don't know. There's legalities around this to consider as well, so I think again it's something that's still on the table.
"We've done quite well with our county reps - I think there are six with Hundred contracts. We've also used our Personal Development Managers (PDMs) who are in contact with all the dressing rooms around the country to canvas opinion."
The salary cuts are unlikely to extend to the women's competition, for which the initial salary bands ranged from £3,600 to £15,000 - significantly lower than the men's. The ECB has announced that equal prize money will be on offer for men and women, but the scale of the disparity of pay between the two competitions raised eyebrows last year.
"They need to be maintained, that's my opinion," Mitchell said. "They're significantly less than the men's salaries at the moment… I don't think the cut across the men's and the women's would necessarily be the same."
Women's cricketers have felt the squeeze from the financial implications of the pandemic harder than their male counterparts. The ECB was due to introduce 40 new contracts for female players this year, but those deals have been put on ice with 24 retainers introduced instead.
Mitchell said that the situation for women's players had been "incredibly tough" but that there was "light at the end of the tunnel" with full contracts for the new regional development centres set to be awarded before the end of the year.
"Credit to the ECB - they've put 24 [players on] retainers to try and help those people out. There's a little bit lacking for a lot of players financially, not playing in the Hundred as well, so it's been tough for some of those players on the fringes who would have expected to become a full-time pro this year.
"But I think there's light at the end of the tunnel with those contracts being awarded at some point in the near future. As chairman, I'm looking forward to being able to welcome 40 women into the PCA as professional members."