Although the ECB received a massive 27 “Expressions of Interest” in acquiring one of the 6 teams which will participate in next summer’s inaugural Women’s Cricket Super League, it has been suggested that they may struggle to translate these into actual bids when the deadline comes around at the end of this year.
Almost all of the submitted Expressions of Interest were led by existing First Class counties, who are the only ones with access to the one thing you need above all else to host a team: a ground!
(Notwithstanding the fact that educational institutions have been repeatedly posited as potential hosts, Clare Connor made it clear at the launch event that even Loughborough’s ground would not meet the required standards!)
Clearly then, the counties hold the keys to the kingdom – they have the grounds; not to mention the coaches, the indoor schools… and the actual experience of running a professional cricket team, which should not be underestimated!
However, the word around the game reveals a worrying picture of cold feet at county board level, echoing what Lizzy Ammon has written here:
“Privately some county chief executives have said to me that they are concerned about the realities of being a host team.”
Unsurprisingly, when you start to dig a little bit deeper, a lot of this seems to come down to money. With a couple of notable exceptions, the First Class counties aren’t exactly swimming in it, and Super League looks at best like a break-even exercise.
Yes, the ECB have talked big money… and to be fair, it is a lot more than the women’s county sides currently get… but it still isn’t lottery winnings, by the time you’ve annualised it and divided it around 6 teams. Back of an envelope calculations carried out by CRICKETher suggest that the Aussies are investing almost twice as much in WBBL.
Super League is also a risk, the kind of which the counties feel very nervous about pursuing in the current climate; with the suggestion being that if they could be sure they’d break even, they might go ahead; but given the impact even a fairly small loss could make upon their overall bottom lines, there are serious concerns.
None of this is insurmountable of course; and the likelihood has to be that with 27 frogs to kiss, the ECB will still find their 6 princes… but they just might have to sign a couple of pre-nups first!