ECB Announces Domestic Structure For County Cricket From 2006 Onwards
In order to increase the amount of 50-over cricket played at county level, and thus give more player exposure to the One-Day International format of the game, the Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy competition will be expanded.
With the exception of the Final, the competition will be played in the first half of the season. The 18 First Class Counties will be divided into two conferences, north and south, with Scotland invited to join the northern conference and Ireland invited to join the southern conference. Each team will play nine 50-over matches against the other teams in its conference with all games played in coloured clothing with a white ball. The winner of the northern conference will play the winner of the southern conference in the Final at Lord’s in August.
The totesport League will be played in the second half of the season. The competition will typically start in mid-July and will continue to be played in two divisions with games scheduled on Sundays / Bank Holiday Mondays or played floodlit in mid-week. Counties will play eight games, thus playing other Counties in their division either home or away. The totesport League will revert to a more spectator-friendly 40-overs per side format. This will allow a marginally later scheduled start for games on a Sunday and also for mid-week floodlit matches.
There will be automatic two-up and two-down promotion and relegation spots. However, in order to provide an appropriate end of season climax, the final game of the domestic season will be a play-off between the third-placed team in the second division and the seventh team in the first division for the final totesport League Division One place. The team finishing third in the second division will have home advantage.
In the Frizzell County Championship, it was concluded that the two division, four-day, 16-match per side format should be retained for a further period. From 2006, season prize money will be paid to the Counties coming first, second and third in the First Division and to the County which wins the Second Division, as opposed to the current practice of rewarding the top two Counties in each division.
As regards the Twenty20 Cup, the 2005 format, which provides eight group matches for all Counties, will be retained for 2006 onwards. The quarter-final stage and a Finals Day incorporating semi-finals as well as the final will also remain. It is intended that group matches will continue to be played in a 15-day window.
The ECB Commercial Department, meanwhile, will investigate the potential commercial benefits of including two overseas teams in the Twenty20 Cup through moving to four groups of five teams as opposed to the current three groups of six teams.
Finally, in order to encourage player development through the winter months, the ECB will urge Counties to contract players for longer periods of the year (preferably 12-month contracts). Consideration will be given to providing incentives to Counties to make this change through performance related fee payments.
The ECB also announced that, from 2006, England ‘A’ will play two first-class matches against the tourists. It is possible that two one-day matches in a three or four day period could replace one of these first class matches.
Mike Soper, Chairman of the Domestic Structure Interim Working Party, the body which recommended these changes, said, “I am extrememly pleased with the outcome of this report which was unanimously acclaimed at the recent FCF Meeting. We will now have a strong competition in the C & G Trophy which reflects International Cricket and is played before the NatWest Series.
Our highly successful Twenty20 competition which brings cricket to a new audience, and in particular the young, will have a 40-over competition immediately following it to continue their interest in the game during the summer holidays”.
For further information please contact Andrea Wiggins, ECB Media Relations Officer
on 020 7432 1272 or 07774 476400