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    Women’s Cricket Teams Are To Be Affiliated With The Counties
Women’s Cricket Teams Are To Be Affiliated With The Counties

Women’s Cricket Teams Are To Be Affiliated With The Counties

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has unveiled ambitious plans to overhaul women's domestic cricket, involving a significant shift in team ownership. Currently, the ECB centrally owns and funds eight independent regional teams. However, under the proposed changes set to take effect in the 2025 season, ownership and responsibility for the growth of women's teams will be transferred back to the first-class counties.

This move marks one more major transformation for women's cricket, which experienced several changes in the last eight years (the regional teams were only established in 2020). The ECB believes this shift will enhance the visibility of the women's game, expand its fanbase, and create a more lucrative platform for commercialisation. The existing system has been successful in raising performance standards but has struggled to generate commercial growth, resulting in consistently low attendance figures at regional matches.

To implement the new model, the ECB has invited the 18 first-class counties, along with the Marylebone Cricket Club, to submit tenders to host one of the eight professional women's teams. The deadline for submissions is 10th March. The bids will be evaluated based on the bidder's ability to deliver high-quality cricket, attract a larger fanbase, provide a return on the ECB's investment, and present a comprehensive “vision and ambition” for the future of women's cricket.

Until 2028, the ECB plans to invest £1.3 million annually into each of the eight teams. However, the counties will be expected to pursue their own financial growth, with the ultimate goal of making women's cricket self-sustaining. Richard Gould, the CEO of the ECB, acknowledged the achievements of regional cricket but expressed even greater ambitions for the women's game. He emphasised the desire to establish “a fully fledged, sustainable, commercial, and professional game”.

Image Source: Midjourney

Within the revamped structure, there will be three tiers: Tier 1 will comprise the eight professional teams, while Tier 2 and Tier 3 will consist of amateur teams affiliated with counties. Notably, there will be no promotion or relegation from Tier 1 until at least 2029.

The ECB draws inspiration from the success of double-headers in the Hundred and the effective alignment of men's and women's teams in competitions like the FA Women's Super League. The officials tend to see these examples as proof that consistent branding and alignment with men’s teams can contribute to expanding fanbases of women’s sports.

The decision to restructure women's domestic cricket also reflects the findings of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket's report, published in June 2023. The report highlighted the marginalisation of women's cricket and uncovered evidence of "a widespread culture of sexism and misogyny" within the professional community.

Beth Barrett-Wild, the ECB Director of the Women's Professional Game, described the proposed changes as a growth plan for cricket. She emphasised the importance of ensuring stability, belonging, and cultural change for women's teams. In Barreth-Wild’s opinion, implementing this transition is an opportunity to galvanise positive transformations in the game and ensure its relevance and prosperity in the future.

Image Source: Midjourney

While some first-class counties have expressed financial concerns about taking on a women's team, others, such as Essex and Durham, are reportedly enthusiastic about securing one of the coveted Tier 1 spots. Surrey and Sussex have already announced that their bids will be submitted.

The tender will be judged by an ECB evaluation panel, comprising independent members alongside representatives from the ECB board and executive. According to Barrett-Wild, the panel will assess the investment and commitment demonstrated by the bidding counties extremely carefully.

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