Yorkshire rule out EPL tie up

Source - yorkshirepost.co.uk

Yorkshire's chief executive Stewart Regan has ruled out the possibility of the club merging with Lancashire and Durham in a newly-created English Premier League.

Regan said he would fight any plans that would see Yorkshire amalgamate after the idea of a regional answer to the Indian Premier League was floated by players' union boss Sean Morris.

Morris, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association, believes an EPL involving 18 teams would not attract the necessary fan base, television or sponsorship interest.

Instead, he feels the 18 first-class counties should merge into six sides, which could see Yorkshire, Lancashire and Durham playing as one.

Regan, who believes an EPL should consist of no more than 12 teams, said Yorkshire combining with other clubs was "not desirable".

But he said mergers could be viable for smaller counties.

"I don't think Yorkshire and Lancashire would play as a merged side," said Regan. "That wouldn't appeal to me, I don't think it would appeal to the Yorkshire fans and it wouldn't appeal to our players.

"I don't want to take Yorkshire into a new identity and an area that involves mixing up with other teams.

"We have probably got the strongest identity of all the counties. The chant at cricket grounds is 'Yorkshire, Yorkshire'. There is a sense of identity that is very strong.

"We've got 1,000 cricket clubs in this county, 15 per cent of cricket is played in Yorkshire, and we've got over five million people here, so I think we've got something a little bit different to most other counties.

"Some of the smaller counties, however, where you've got professional cricket being played in tight geographical areas around the Midlands and the South-West, may decide it is in their best interests to merge.

"I don't think 18 teams is workable; I think it's too many. I think an English Premier League might be centred around some of the bigger grounds – grounds like Headingley Carnegie, Trent Bridge and The Oval, for example. The traditional Test grounds would be well-placed to stage the matches because of their size and facilities."

Regan's comments were echoed by Lancashire chief executive Jim Cumbes and Durham chief executive David Harker.

Commenting on the idea of merging with Yorkshire, Cumbes said: "I'm not very keen. Sitting in the second city with 11 million people within an hour's drive, I don't think we actually need regional cricket in this part of the world.

"I could see it working in other parts of the country, but I don't know how it would work with some teams merged and others not."

Harker said: "To throw us into a bucket with Yorkshire and Lancashire would be wrong. We are 90 miles from Headingley and 120 miles from Old Trafford, so what connection do we have with those places?"

The England and Wales Cricket Board say they are moving towards creating an EPL by 2010.

ECB chief executive David Collier said talks with billionaire investor Sir Allen Stanford were "well advanced".

"We've had some very positive and constructive discussions with Sir Allen during the last week," said Collier.

"Sir Allen has certainly mentioned 2010 and I think that's the more likely date."

Regan said cricket needed to weigh up the effects of the IPL before finalising the detail of the English model.

"We need to fully evaluate the effect of the IPL and franchise structure," he added. "We have to ask – is it really working?

"With the exception of the first IPL match, I don't think the crowds have been particularly brilliant.

"We could also have teams from other parts of the world taking part in an EPL, but the competition would have to be deregulated so we could then go for four or five overseas players to increase the number of big names on show."

The county chief executives are set to discuss the latest EPL situation at their meeting at Lord's on Tuesday.
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