George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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Measures designed to prevent widespread job losses within the county game would appear to have proven successful.
There had been fears the financial ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic would produce a record number of players leaving the game at the end of the 2020 season. But although 134 players were out of contract in October, all but 41 have now agreed new contracts, with hopes remaining that several of those may yet find new deals in the weeks ahead. Over the five-year period from 2015 to 2019, an average of 45 players a year have left the game.
Those figures would appear to vindicate decisions taken by the ECB, who continued to distribute funds at the rate expected ahead of the pandemic, and the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA), the players' union and their new chief executive, Rob Lynch, in particular. Since the start of the crisis, the PCA have been involved in discussions with their members, the players, which were designed to help counties avoid taking drastic action to get through the pandemic.
Among those decisions were a series of pay cuts for county players, an acceptance of the need to utilise the furlough system and extensions to rookie and academy contracts allowing players to spend an extra year on those contracts. The counties were also urged to think hard before signing overseas players. The PCA were keen to avoid a scenario whereby county players were persuaded to accept pay cuts only for that money then to be spent on high-profile overseas signings.
Lynch, who started as the PCA's commercial director a couple of weeks ahead of the first lockdown, was confirmed as CEO in October, and admitted he was encouraged by the figures but felt there was no room for complacency.
"Our intention was to act in a responsible and timely way to save jobs," Lynch told ESPNcricinfo. "None of us can say with any certainty how next season is going to look at this stage, but we have agreements in place until the end of February."
The current agreement sees players taking a maximum five percent pay cut until the end of December and then up to 10 percent through to the end of February. During that period, they will be expected to train three days a week in December and four in January and February.
Meanwhile the PCA have begun the process of appointing a new chair. Daryl Mitchell, the Worcestershire batsman, has won widespread praise for the manner in which he has fulfilled the job over the last four years. But with the constitution stating an individual can serve a maximum of two two-year terms, Mitchell will be stepping down at the end of February.
The PCA are currently accepting applications for the role and will subsequently organise an election.
Former England captain Graham Gooch is also standing down from the role of PCA president, so the organisation will have a new chair and president on March 1. Gooch memorably donated £50,000 of his own money to the PCA in 2016 to help with education programmes.
"Daryl has been nothing but outstanding," Lynch told ESPNcricinfo. "He has filled this role at the most challenging period in the PCA's history and through his hard work and integrity, he has achieved a great deal on behalf of our members."
The PCA has no plans to introduce a salary to the unpaid position.