Counties still keen on Champions League

Felix Austin | cricket20

Despite clashing with the end of the County Championship season the lucrative t20 Champions League is still a tournament high on the list or priorities for most county cricketers and their chairmen.

Last year’s tournament, which was scheduled for the middle of September, took place without the Hampshire Royals and Somerset Sabres who qualified for the tournament after reaching the final of the Friends Provident t20.

Both teams were banned from participating by the ECB who feared the County Championship would be damaged if weakened teams were fielded by the Royals and Sabres whilst they took part in the tournament in South Africa.

Despite the fixture clash which robbed the Royals and Sabres of their places in the lucrative competition most chairmen are against reducing the number of matches in the County Champions in order to facilitate the Champions League.

Instead attention will turn to the bloated Friends Provident t20 tournament which was increased to 16 games only last spring; by reducing the number of group games to 10 per county in 2012 the summer’s fixture list will be less crowded allowing the ECB to create a larger window for the Champions League in September.

The ECB’s management board will meet next week to discuss the various proposals put forward by the chairmen of the 18 counties when they meet at Lords on Tuesday, March 22nd.

Durham chief executive David Harker is confident that a compromise will be found but admitted the solution isn’t as easy as just cutting the number of games in the County Champions or Friends Provident t20.

"I think the assumption that if we stay with a 16-game competition for the championship that necessarily has to take the season up until September, October time is one I don't agree with," said Harker.

"Built into the schedule are additional weeks that may or may not be necessary," he added.

"You can also look at a situation where the winner of the t20 in one year qualifies for the following year's Champions League rather than the immediate Champions League, and therefore you have a season where you have a fixture list to ensure that that county's round of games maybe finish a week earlier."

"I'm not saying that is the answer, but I don't quite yet accept that it is a foregone conclusion if you stay with two divisions of nine then you absolutely will be prevented from participation in the Champions League."
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