Big counties seek to muscle in on EPL

There is a growing rift between the leading first-class counties and the ECB which could result in them trying to seize control of the English Premier League from the board

Cricinfo staff
There is a growing rift between leading first-class counties and the ECB, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph, which could result in them trying to seize control of the English Premier League (EPL) from the board.
Earlier this year the ECB announced the launch of the EPL in 2010, but there is speculation that the counties are considering setting up their own company to run the event, which would enable them to share profits that could run into tens of millions of pounds. It would also expose them to all the risks inherent in such a scheme.
"We realise there are a lot of questions about this and we want to look at all the options," Paul Sheldon, Surrey's chief executive, told the newspaper. "We could have a standalone company looking after the competition or a different model of distribution. This is the counties' prized asset and a chance to benefit from a unique set of commercial circumstances."
Surrey were one of the leading proponents of the mooted franchise-led EPL, which was thrown out earlier in the year, and it is likely support this time will again come from the bigger counties.
The proposal does not have as widespread support as Sheldon might like. "Paul's agenda is to make Surrey bigger and is not necessarily in the best interests of the game," David Smith, Leicestershire's chief executive, told Cricinfo. "The ECB are the right people to run the game as they have the best interests of everyone at heart and I have every confidence in them. The plan is fraught with danger and we will be giving the ECB our wholehearted support."
For the idea to get off the ground it would need the backing of 75% of ECB members, a group which includes all 39 county boards. However, the first-class counties are understood to have taken legal advice and are confident that they alone have the right to vote on issues involving only them.
"We have an obligation to hand the game down to the next generation in a robust financial state," Smith said. "This is only likely to benefit a few counties, and if they get richer then we could end up with a situation like the FA Premier League where three or four sides dominate because they have so much more money than the rest. And that can't be good for the game."