The ECB’s Managing Director of Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor, has admitted that following the cancellation of The Hundred there may be no professional women’s cricket at all played in England this summer, but has softened the blow with the announcement that the ECB are looking to introduce interim “retainers” for some players below England level to help them through the COVID-19 crisis.
Speaking to members of the press via a Zoom conference call, Connor said that she remains steadfastly committed to her vision for the women’s game, in the face of the unprecedented possibility of a summer without cricket and a £380 million black hole in the ECB’s accounts.
Whilst admitting that “there is no part of the ECB that has been afforded ring-fenced funding”, Connor said that the £20 million allocated for women’s and girls cricket in 2020-21 was still the budget they were working to; and that the ECB was planning to address the financial worries of those who had been hoping for full-time domestic “Centres of Excellence” [CoE] contracts this season by awarding a number of “financial retainers” to tide them over.
Although these retainers would not quite be a full time salary, they would be part-way to full professionalism, with the players being expected to commit to a full Strength & Conditioning program, overseen by their CoE coaches, as well as undertaking mandatory anti-corruption and anti-doping education programs online.
With the ECB facing an enormous financial deficit, Connor conceded that bringing in revenue by playing men’s Tests, behind closed doors but on TV, may have to take priority over playing women’s internationals:
“We’ve got long-term ambitions for the [women’s] game that extend beyond this summer, and trying to protect as much investment as possible over the next five years is largely going to come down to how much international men’s cricket can be staged this summer.”
However, she said that she remained hopeful that at least some international women’s cricket could be staged this season.
England’s series against India has been postponed but at this stage not officially cancelled, and the later series against South Africa is in theory still on the calendar “as was”. But with only a limited number of bio-secure venues available, Connor admitted that prioritising the men’s games, which would bring in the money the game as a whole desperately needs, could be “a hit we might have to take”.