Last night, we were asked on Twitter:
The Women’s County Championship has provided sterling service over the past twenty years, despite being played and run on a shoestring by an (amazing) army of volunteers and demi-semi-professionals. However, it has significant problems, the most glaring of which is that the best players are spread far too thinly around the 18 teams that make up Divisions 1 & 2.
The ECB tried to address this via a “loan” system, which attempted to concentrate all the very best players in Division 1, but this has been only partially successful, often because amateur players won’t (or to be fair can’t) just up-and-move at the will of an ECB pen.
This is why we’ve been calling for years for a new* elite tier to be created between county and country – a semi-professional “Super League”, which would have fewer teams and create a more competitive environment for the very best players.
And… amazingly… this is exactly what the ECB announced earlier this year.
Super League is going to make a huge difference – it is going to shake things up and ruffle some feathers; and I do genuinely feel for those who have strived so hard to make the county system work, and whose efforts are now to be superseded… but it is what we need, and it is what is happening.
Abolish The Academy
Okay… okay – this sounds crazy; but bear with me – I’m not talking about tomorrow, or even next year; but ultimately we want to create a situation where we can abolish the Academy.
(For those who don’t know, the Academy is the “Women’s Lions” – a Loughborough-based tier which sits below the full England team – a young squad of future England stars, who train and tour together.)
The problem with the Academy is that it is monolithic – one program, one set of coaches, one way of playing. Currently, it is the only pathway to the England team, and if you don’t fit in, you’re out!
If the Super League is successful, it will create six localised centres of elite excellence, which all become “Mini-Academies”. There will be competition among coaches and coaching methods, and if a player doesn’t fit in at “A” she can move to “B”, where they might have a different approach. Diamonds will be found in the rough; the most talented stars will shine through; and tomorrow’s England will reap the rewards.
Finally… one more thing that can improve the domestic game – YOU – by coming to watch a county match! (There are several on tomorrow – see the calendar here!) Then write a blog post and we’ll retweet it; or write a match report and we’ll publish it.
The additional scrutiny alone will make a genuine difference. Yes, the players (and their parents) will occasionally have to feel the sting of criticism, some of them for the first time; but they will also feel more driven because they’ll know people are rooting for them; they’ll feel the adulation that little bit more intensely when they win; and ultimately they will be better England players for it.
* Technically, we’ve actually had such a competition all along – the “Super 4s” – but nobody paid it much attention, and more recently it has evolved into little more than a private training camp.