As reported by Lizzy Ammon in today’s Times (ECB plans to cut teams in women’s game [£]) the ECB are planning a radical restructuring of women’s county cricket in 2020, creating a number of “professional” counties and relegating the others to permanent Minor Counties-style feeder status.
CRICKETher understands that new setup would preserve the Women’s County Championship as a “thing” but with a top tier of 8 (or possibly 10, depending on who you talk to) professional counties, with no relegation or promotion.
As well as the County Championship, these counties would also play a T20 competition, addressing concerns about the lack of domestic T20 when The Hundred is introduced.
As for all the other counties, they would become feeders for the pro teams – so for example, Berkshire would officially feed into Middlesex, creating an official pathway for any junior girls in Berkshire. CRICKETher understands that these structures are already being put into place, so expect to see more tie-ups such as yesterday’s announcement that Berkshire’s Lauren Bell will play for Middlesex in the T20 Cup this season.
The key advantage of this is it allows the pro counties to invest in the women’s game, without having to worry about promotion or relegation, creating a more stable system for the top players. (It has long been a concern for the England management that England players playing below Div 1 in the County Championship is (at best) unhelpful.)
It would also allow a degree of player payment to be brought in more easily, with the “pro” counties offering match fees and stipends, though this is likely initially to continue to fall some way short of full professionalism.