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.”