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    ECB wins Hundred 'direction of travel' agreement from countries
ECB wins Hundred 'direction of travel' agreement from countries
The future of the Hundred has been subject of much debate. Source: Getty Images

ECB wins Hundred 'direction of travel' agreement from countries

The privatisation of the Hundred has moved a step closer after the ECB reached a broad agreement with the 18 first-class counties and the MCC on its proposed 'direction of travel'.

The English game has been meeting regularly over the past nine months to discuss the future of the tournament. Richard Gould, the ECB's chief executive, said last month that there was a "strong consensus" that the eight teams which are currently under board ownership should be opened up to private investment.

This would be achieved by creating eight new companies and giving 51% of the shares in each to the host county: Surrey, for example, would be the majority shareholder in Oval Invincibles. The remaining 49% of the shares would be sold centrally by the ECB to interested parties.

The board has asked the counties to agree a "direction of travel" by Friday. There is still some wrangling over how the proceeds from the sale of the ECB's shares will be split, the counties have given their non-binding approval for the sale process to continue.

The 11 non-host counties raised their concerns with Gould earlier this week and are seeking independent financial advice.

Jon Filby, the chairman of Sussex, told the BBC this week:

"The non-host county position is that, as in any financial arrangement of this type - and you're talking hundreds of millions of pounds - that we would have our own proper, impartial advice and that's what we're now seeking."

However many of them are struggling financially and have business models that rely heavily on central funding from the ECB. A recent investigation by Cricketer magazine found that five counties have required emergency financial assistance from the ECB in the last two years. Gloucestershire posted losses of £1.2m last year, Middlesex is in special measures after breaching ECB financial rules, while Worcestershire's finance director said in their latest annual report: "Financial sustainability remains a key concern".

The Telegraph reported that under the latest model, the money raised from the sale of the ECB's stake would be given to the recreational game at a rate of 10%, with the remainder shared by the counties. The first £275m would be split 19 ways - between the 18 counties and the MCC. The next £150 million would be shared by the 11 non-host counties and any further revenue would again be split 19 ways.

One county chief executive told ESPNcricinfo that the non-host counties - which include his club - were generally supportive of a deal, but felt the details had to be right for all parties to avoid widening the gap between richer and poorer counties.

Host counties will decide how much of their 51% stake in the teams they want to keep - if any - and the remaining stake will be sold centrally by the ECB as part of the selling process. Lancashire and Surrey have both recently consulted with members to keep them informed of the latest developments.

The ECB has appointed New York-based investment bank Raine Group to manage the sale process, which it hopes to complete later this year after using the 2024 edition as a showcase for the Hundred. IPL franchises have been on the radar, while Gould has also had reports of interest from US and UK investors.

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