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Twenty20 innovation welcomed

England's top two Twenty20 sides next summer will get the chance to play for a 1million prize fund following this week's ground-breaking announcement of a new intercontinental champions tournament.

Such riches were only fantasy to the English domestic game prior to the formation of this eight-team competition, set up by the Indian board in conjunction with their Australian counterparts.

The top club sides from England, India, South Africa and Australia will compete in the inaugural season with expansion to 16 teams anticipated from 2009 onwards.

So how have county cricket's top brass reacted to the news that the current winner's prize money of 42,000 now comes with extra financial bonus?

Here we canvass the views of five of English cricket's leading men:

Paul Millman, chief executive of 2007 champions Kent: "This is a vindication of Twenty20 in the sense that when it started there were a few who were sceptical of it.

"The way it has moved forward - to take in a world event like there is currently in South Africa so quickly for example - is great for cricket.

"I just wish from Kent's point of view this had come through one year earlier! Just think what this kind of lucrative tournament will do for focusing the minds of the counties, players and supporters in this country.

"That is not to say teams will not still be trying their hardest to win the County Championship. It will be similar to football which has the FA Cup, Premier League and Champions League.

"Whether you are Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea or whoever you do not necessarily prioritise, you go for the lot.

"But certainly the profile of Twenty20 is now huge and that is only good when you are competing against other sports."

Rod Bransgrove, chairman of Hampshire: "It sounds like a great idea. For me Twenty20 is a better game for clubs than it is for countries and re-establishes star status of players at club level as it was in previous generations.

"It's a serious amount of money and will no doubt be played in front of great television audiences. I cannot think of anything negative about it.

"This kind of high-profile projection will give club cricket the shot in the arm that's needed."

Jim Cumbes, chief executive of Lancashire: "Generally speaking I am very much in favour of it and that is the shared view of all the chief executives who have been in meetings in South Africa this week.

"We clearly need to meet soon, back home, to discuss the ins and outs of the competition because that's a lot of money we are talking about and what has not been made clear is where that money will be going.

"Does it go straight back to the England and Wales Cricket Board, the clubs or the players? But in terms of the competition itself it is a great concept."

Mark Newton, chief executive of Worcestershire: "It is the most positive and most exciting piece of news for domestic cricket since the introduction of Twenty20 itself in this country.

"It was great we led the way on this and inevitable that cricket was going to move forward.

"Playing for a million-pound pot will certainly focus the minds and will, I have no doubt, effect the recruiting of players by counties.

"Traditionally you have built a squad for four-day cricket and adapted it for one-day matches but that may now become the other way around, particularly for counties who cannot manage large squads.

"While we all want four-day cricket to continue, it has to be considered how much and at what level does it fit into the county structure. That has to be looked at very seriously. We are an entertainment sport and you have to look at what the public and television want. The whole thing is now a question of balance."

Mark Tagg, chief executive of Northamptonshire: "When I heard about it my initial reaction was 'crikey'. It is an incredible amount of money compared to what is on offer in the English game.

"It is fantastic for the county game to be elevated to these kind of levels - anything that raises the profile has to be a good thing. I certainly saw us being competitive in next season's domestic competition despite this really draws everybody's attention and can no longer be called a 'bit of fun' by anyone."

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