Richard Gould: Yorkshire Tier 1 omission is 'not punishment for past sins'

ECB chief executive promises that counties will be held to account in transition to new professional set-up

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Katie Levick celebrates a wicket with her Northern Diamonds team-mates, Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy Final, Southern Vipers v Northern Diamonds, Edgbaston, September 27, 2020

Northern Diamonds players face a relocation from Leeds to Durham after the Tier 1 announcements  •  PA Images via Getty Images

Yorkshire's unsuccessful bid to host a Tier 1 team in England's new domestic women's structure does not amount to the club being "punished for past sins". That is according to ECB chief executive Richard Gould, speaking after Yorkshire's board said they were "shocked and disappointed" to learn they would not receive funding for a fully professional side until 2027.
Northern Diamonds, the regional side in the north east, have predominantly been based at Headingley since formation although they will also play home games at Chester-le-Street, Scarborough and York in 2024. Durham will host a Tier 1 county in the initial eight-team structure from 2025, which Yorkshire's board described as "tough to take".
"We believe we hit all of the criteria set out as part of the tender, so we will be taking time to investigate and understand the detail behind the decision," Yorkshire's board said in a statement, which also highlighted Yorkshire's large active playing base of women and girls, and the county's success in producing players that have gone on to play internationally for England.
Yorkshire were heavily fined and deducted points last year over the club's failings in response to allegations of institutional racism, and cited their disappointment that they would not be able to use a Tier 1 women's team to help them achieve their ambition to become "the most welcoming and inclusive cricket club in the country".
But Gould denied that was a factor in the ECB's decision. "It's certainly not [that Yorkshire are] being punished for past sins," he said, at an event launching a national tape-ball competition. "That's not our role. Our role is to promote the game, not punish. We have responsibility when we have an opportunity such as this to get the best outcomes nationally."
Yorkshire said that the news was "frustrating and upsetting" for Northern Diamonds players and staff, with Heather Knight, England's captain, confirming that the prospect of having to relocate from Leeds to Durham had caused "quite an unsettling time" for some of the Yorkshire-based domestic players. "It's important that the girls are looked after and helped to transition into the new structure," she said.
Gould, however, insisted that such tough decisions would have to be part of the process. "This is professional sport," he said. "It's no bad thing. If you want to be paid to be a player in this set-up, you're going to be a Tier 1 player."
The Professional Cricketers' Association anticipate some "teething problems" and have also, along with the ECB, pledged to hold counties to account in delivering on the proposals that formed part of their bids. "I'm in a region [Western Storm] that has three different counties," Knight said. "You don't have one county that's accountable for you. Hopefully, that's going to change."
Gould said he welcomed scrutiny from the PCA on counties. "There are always local issues: who gets into the gym at what time, who uses the nets at particular times. Those are small things, but they're important things that need to be ironed out. This is all part of the education that we're going through, but people will be held to account."
As well as Yorkshire, seven other counties were unsuccessful in their bids - though Glamorgan, like Yorkshire, have been told they will receive funding to host a Tier 1 team from 2027. Kent, Leicestershire and Middlesex all issued forthright statements in response. "Lots of clubs are disappointed," Gould acknowledged.
Knight believes the scale of that disappointment is a "sign of the progress that has been made" since she first played in Berkshire's age-group system.
"It sounds like there are some counties who are disappointed, which is a shame - but also pretty cool," she said. "When I was playing a long time ago, a lot of counties weren't interested."
The ECB say that their investment in women's domestic cricket - which will be around £19 million per year by 2027 - could grow the number of female professional players in the country by 80% in the next five years, and Knight believes there is enough talent to sustain that structure. "It's always an argument that the depth isn't there… but it's an argument that shoots itself in the foot," she said.
"If you don't invest, you don't grow the talent. There's so many girls that have seen cricket and want to get involved, so they need that structure to get them in and keep them in the game. Hopefully, this will do that. Investment is key to growing the depth. There's a lot of sports out there and it's important that cricket is a viable [career] option."
Knight believes the revamp is "the next logical step" in the professionalisation of women's cricket in England and Wales. "It's going to be really interesting to see how it plays out. It's super exciting to see the plans that have been presented, and I guess now it's about seeing how they're enacted and how women's cricket is put alongside the men and given that equal opportunity."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98