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England women enter professional era

The ECB has awarded 18 players from the England Women's Performance Programme new contracts and hailed a move into a new professional era for the women's game.

Charlotte Edwards holds the women's Ashes trophy aloft, England v Australia, 3rd Women's T20, Chester-le-Street, August 31, 2013

Charlotte Edwards raises the Ashes trophy last summer - just one of the successes for England's women  •  Getty Images

The ECB has awarded 18 players from the England Women's Performance Programme new contracts and hailed a move into a new professional era for the women's game.
The increased support for the higher echelons of women's cricket has been made possible by England's success in gaining a greater share of revenue from the world game.
Confirmation of the new payments follows the decision by the ECB Board in February to invest in the women's game to record levels, with all 18 players now set to benefit from the improved financial arrangements.
The ECB's head of England women's cricket, Clare Connor, said: "The performances delivered by Charlotte Edwards and her team over the past 12 months, including back-to-back Women's Ashes triumphs, a historic series win in the West Indies in November, and reaching the ICC Women's World Twenty20 final in Bangladesh, unequivocally justify the financial reward which comes with the new England women's contracts.
"The pay increase for the contracted players is significant and signals the dawning of a fully professional era in every sense for England women's cricket. I am grateful to the ECB Board for the ongoing support they provide towards the development of the women's game in this country."
Paul Downton, Managing Director England Cricket, added: "The England women's team always prepare to excellent standards, and have been professional cricketers in all but name for a while now.
"International women's cricket has developed at a fast pace over the last few years and is now a year-round operation. The new arrangements will allow the 18 contracted players to train as full-time professionals.
"This is a very natural next step forward for the women's game in this country, and we hope that the move will lead to England maintaining their position as one of the most successful women's teams in the world."
The ECB's determination to advance the cause of women's cricket has also been politically well received. Helen Grant, the Minister for Sport, said: "Today's announcement by the ECB is a significant step forward, not just for women's cricket, but for women's sport in this country. It is fantastic that the ECB is now moving to professionalise the sport. This will demonstrate to girls and women throughout the country that a career in sport is a realistic aspiration for them."
This summer, England women will host India women in August for a one-off Test match and three one-day internationals, before welcoming South Africa women for a three-match Twenty20 International series at the start of September.
England Women's Contracts 2014-2015: Charlotte Edwards (captain), Tamsin Beaumont, Natasha Farrant, Lydia Greenway, Laura Marsh (all Kent), Katherine Brunt, Danielle Hazell, Lauren Winfield (all Yorkshire), Georgia Elwiss, Kathryn Cross (Lancashire), Rebecca Grundy, Amy Jones (both Warwickshire), Jenny Gunn, Danielle Wyatt (both Notts), Natalie Sciver (Surrey), Heather Knight (Berkshire), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Sarah Taylor (Sussex)