ECB threaten Champions League rival
England are ready to organise a breakaway Twenty20 Champions League in the Middle East this autumn if India maintain their threat to ban counties who employ any Indian Cricket League players.
In another illustration of the ECB's new-found willingness to counter the dominance of the powerful Indian board, contingency plans are already advanced for an eight-team tournament minus the Indian Premier League finalists.
With IPL commissioner Lalit Modi hell-bent on using the Champions League as another tool to crush the 'rebel' ICL by blacklisting not only its players but their employers, too, India may find themselves out in the cold.
Following talks with Australian and South African counterparts, the ECB are privately confident those countries would side with England in the event of a continuing standoff when negotiations continue at Lord's next week.
And there would be no problem filling the two vacant slots in a revised competition, as several other nations have expressed an interest on behalf of their teams.
It is understood that the ECB have provisionally secured sufficient sponsorship and broadcasting deals to ensure that the competing teams would still be chasing a prize fund of approximately £2.4million, as they would be under the original arrangements.
Logistically, it would be feasible to stage an inaugural tournament in late September/early October, as the ECB have a Dubai-based company on standby to take care of infrastructure issues.
However, they are still hoping the Indians will agree to compromise once they realise England and their allies can launch a Champions League of their own.
Six hours of talks on Thursday between the immovable object, Modi, and ECB chief executive David Collier ended in stalemate.
The ECB argue that players who took part in the first ICL series should be exempt from any sanctions, as it had not at that stage been outlawed by governing bodies around the world.
There are a host of other factors to be addressed, such as EU law regarding restraint of trade and whether or not counties with ICL players who have not appeared in this season's Twenty20 Cup, such as Yorkshire, should be disqualified.
As it stands, only Essex and Middlesex of the quarter-finalists are 100 per cent 'clean' and the ECB concede that, as it stands, the two finalists are not guaranteed to be England's representatives.
Meanwhile, officials at Lord's are hoping to rush through early agreements about this year's improved central contracts, as a number of England players are keen to sign up with IPL franchises.
The ECB are hoping that in return for allowing their players a small window to compete in the IPL, India will release their leading stars to play for counties in the Twenty20 Cup.