NEWS: ECB Backtrack On Plans To Abolish Women’s County Cricket

In the ECB’s first public announcement about their planned restructure of women’s domestic cricket from next season, Clare Connor has backtracked on the initial plan to completely abolish women’s county cricket, recognising that the weaknesses of the existing club structure are greater than she had realised.

In a piece published in the match day programme for the men’s England v Ireland Test at Lord’s, Connor says: “There will probably still need to be a place for some county cricket, while the club game develops, and we are reviewing that currently.”

She also officially confirms that the plan is for an eight-team semi-professional competition, with women in the eight teams playing both 50-over and T20 cricket, and with the eight teams set to be closely aligned to the new Women’s Hundred sides (of which there will also be eight).

The full programme piece, authored by Connor, reads as follows:

“Over the past 11 months, we’ve had a rigorous and constructive debate across all 39 counties and Wales, about how to invest the £20m the board at the ECB has approved for 2020 and 2021 to transform the women’s and girls’ game.

It has been reassuring to hear the level of support and commitment across the game for our headline plans to:

  • Develop compelling cricket activities for girls in secondary schools
  • Strengthen the club offer for female players of all abilities
  • Invest in the county talent pathway for girls
  • Build a new eight-team semi-professional competition structure in both 50-over and T20 formats, with each team being underpinned by a year-round Academy
  • Maximise investment through areas of alignment between the new eight-team semi-professional competition structure and The Hundred – Women’s Competition

The area of most debate has been about the future of the women’s county game, which has done an important job for a number of years, thanks to the dedication of volunteers who remain the bedrock of our game.

As the game has grown in popularity, our structure has needed to evolve to suit the growing demand at the recreational level. In many counties, women’s club cricket has not been sustainably developed, meaning county cricket is the only available playing opportunity of any standard or frequency.

Women’s county cricket is therefore being used in many parts of the country as a participation experience, which, everyone agrees, is far from ideal. We will be failing female recreational players if we – the ECB and the counties – do not address hardball club cricket with real commitment.

There will probably still need to be a place for some county cricket, while the club game develops, and we are reviewing that currently.

Collectively we have the opportunity to put in place a pathway that allows all areas of the game to flourish. We’ve had fantastic success with All Stars Cricket and we need to progress in other areas, so that the eight-year-old girl who has been inspired to pick up a bat can see a clear pathway to becoming a semi-pro or professional cricket, should she wish to.

There will be equal emphasis from us on improving both the participation and the performance experience for women and girls.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the women’s and girls’ game – a transformation which is vital to the future of the entire game in this country. I think we are about to start the most exciting period in the history of women’s cricket in this country.”

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18 thoughts on “NEWS: ECB Backtrack On Plans To Abolish Women’s County Cricket

  1. I guess I should really wait for the review to be completed, but doesn’t Connor’s musing mean the death knell for the multi-day format of the game for women’s cricket? Surely, as in the men’s game, 1st class county cricket and international Tests are the pinnacle of the women’s game.

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    • There is no multi-day cricket, apart from the Ashes Tests every 2 years. As far as I read it, CC’s comments don’t touch on that at all.

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      • In my view (and it’s only that) the ICC needs to encourage other nations to play Test Cricket in the women’s game or not at all. Until that question is answered I don’t think any one can reformat the National game until it’s international future has been decided.

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  2. Well, I suppose a cautious welcome is the obvious response, although the way I interpret it, it seems that it would be intended as no more than a temporary stay of execution, and the words “There will PROBABLY still need to be a place for SOME county cricket, while the club game develops…” leave a good bit of wriggle-room for the ECB when it comes to putting flesh on the bones.

    Whilst it may be true that “…women’s club cricket has not been sustainably developed, meaning county cricket is the only available playing opportunity of any standard or frequency…”, I would strongly disagree that this means, “Women’s county cricket is therefore being used in many parts of the country as a participation experience…”. To me that’s a complete non-sequitur and also untrue.

    Having watched several matches this season in Divisions 2 & 3, I have NOT ONCE felt that I have been watching women playing anything other than serious cricket. Yes, there are occasions when one or two players are there to make up an XI, but that is an entirely different matter. It’s certainly not the same as saying they are there just to participate. Softball festivals (not that there’s anything wrong with them at all) are participation cricket, County Cricket is very different from that.

    All that being said, this is a promising step back from the ECB. Who knows what the future might bring.

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    • I agree Richard there are no ‘fillers’ in women’s county cricket they’re committed .

      What I would say is that in some cases county teams have probably fast tracked more CAG players when previously there was a glass ceiling.

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      • I agree with the points Richard & Baz raise. Baz, I think the transition from CAG to county is one of the biggest weaknesses of the current system – just not enough opportunities for very good CAG players to play meaningful cricket and continue to develop their game. I’ve seen a number of talented players drop out of the game on that basis. The ECB do need to clarify what the new pathway will look like and how to retain women in the game. Nothing I’ve heard so far has been remotely convincing, but Connor’s statement on reviewing this provides a morsel of encourangement.

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    • Completely agree about the caveats she puts on her statement. Feels like there is a long way to go before the ecb sees the bleedin obvious that county cricket plays a valuable and valued role and should continue to.

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    • Presumably this programme has been available since the first morning. Here we are 48 hours later, and CH remains the only place I’ve seen it referred to. It does seem a very odd way of communicating this message, almost amounting to the “burial of bad news” (bad from the ECB’s point of view, as it represents something of a climbdown).

      Shouldn’t something like this – which may not have much significance to the audience at Lord’s this week, but has been awaited with some concern by county cricketers up and down the country for months now – be communicated first and foremost to the people it affects?

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  3. At last some seeds of sense! However, no jumping up and down “Eureka “ moments just yet. The counties currently outside the top two tiers (of the old county championship) provide invaluable opportunities for girls to play county cricket. The crickether piece a few weeks ago showed this in great detail. Does Clare Connor not realise the great pride and enthusiasm girls get from wearing their county shirt or being awarded their county cap, whichever county they are from? Her vision for those who don’t make the promised land of the 100 teams to “play club cricket” showed her misunderstanding of the weakness of the club set up. There are good, well run, individual clubs up and down the country, but a strong, robust club set up? Cloud cuckoo land.
    Eagerly awaiting the next developments!

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  4. There has been further information made available on outlining plans for next season which I have no idea if it is in stone or simply a proposal. Apparently in May and June there are plans for a women’s county T20. Then the England women are involved in their international series in June and July. The inaugural Hundred takes place July to August.
    It is expected that the regional centres of excellence will compete in a 50 over competition from the end of August through September
    Then the England women have an international series in September
    When was this all planned……if true?

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  5. As an Aussie, I think the solution must be to get rid of The Hundred contest. A fourth format that’s not played internationally, and is even shorter than T20? What a silly idea.

    It reminds me of Australian Rules Football, which sucks up a huge amount of athletic talent and sponsorship money, but is not played professionally anywhere else. Imagine how much better Australia would do in the World Cups of soccer and rugby (and even cricket – Jess Duffin now plays AFL instead of cricket) if all that talent and money were focused on something other than Aussie Rules.

    So in English women’s cricket, the solution is to have a 50 over county competition, and a city based T20 competition, as in Oz.

    Oh, wait a minute, isn’t an English system like that one now in the process of being ditched???

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  6. It’s all about the money County Clubs have sold their sole to TV. No point whatsoever playing The Hundred if you don’t understand T20 your’re going to be even more confused counting backwards from 100. It’s insulting everyone’s intelegence. Nowhere else in the World will embrace this format. Women’s cricket at grassroots is being killed off to serve the elite ….
    Just saying!

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  7. Other than seeming to unnecessarily abandon 50 over cricket. What I would also question here is what does this do to the pathway for girls cricket. My daughter currently plays county age group cricket which is played at a higher level than inter club games and aids development- alongside coaching the county also provides. If you undermine that structure by reducing support for the senior sides I don’t see that clubs can provide anything like the same level of support and I don’t think anyone would ever suggest this is what should happen with boys age group county cricket.

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  8. Absolutely right James, women are being treated differently they pathways should be exactly the same, its discrimination. However those making the decisions are being influenced by the money men, including former female players who should know better. Those of them in high positions should be protecting the youngsters and fighting for equality and not worrying about their own bank balances. Given the girls equal rights and properly fund CAG, the talent net needs the be widened as far as possible.

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