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ECB chief cool on rival Twenty20

England and Wales Cricket Board chief Giles Clarke has played down a new proposal for a 50m Twenty20 event to rival the Indian Premier League.

Backed by the MCC, it would see the traditional counties replaced by nine franchises, who would take part in a 57-match tournament.

"I've not been involved with the proposals in the slightest," Clarke told BBC's Test Match Special.

"It's an idea between two individuals on the ECB board. We may discuss it."

The tournament is supported by Lancashire, Hampshire and Surrey as well as the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club), the BBC understands.

It would be scheduled for each June and July from 2010 onwards and last for 25 days.

A document outlining the proposals will be put forward for discussion by the ECB later this month, but Clarke said ideas were always being considered with a view to taking county cricket forward.

"There has been a lot of debate and discussion over what is the most optimal format for the summer - what will generate the most money, what spectators want to watch, how it will help the England cricket team," added the ECB chairman.

Clarke was also adamant that there would be no reduction in the number of teams in the current county structure.

"I'm firmly in favour of 18 counties playing at their county grounds. I'm not remotely interested in the reduction of counties," he added.

Hampshire are one of the counties at the heart of the new structure and a club statement said: "The intelligent and well-considered proposal for such a new Twenty20 competition has been prepared in response to ECB?s recent invitation for submissions.

"The proposal demonstrates significant benefits for all stakeholders in English cricket, with minimal disruption to the traditional domestic structure. Hampshire Cricket fully supports the proposal."

Like the IPL, the new Twenty20 tournament would adopt a bidding process to attract the biggest stars of the international stage.

It is also suggested that each squad would consist of 12 home-grown players, of which three must be under 23, with a salary cap of 1.5m.

The lucrative IPL and its unsanctioned rival, the Indian Cricket League (ICL), has seen Twenty20 cricket dominate the cricket headlines in recent months.

In order not to be left behind, England agreed a five-year deal worth 50m with businessman Sir Allen Stanford where they will play a winner-takes-all Twenty20 match each year in the Caribbean.

"This tournament would effectively abolish the long-established county structure," explained BBC Radio 5 Live cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew.

"The smaller counties will see this as the beginning of the end.

"The question is, will cricket lovers in this country who have been brought up following counties go to watch nominally Manchester, Birmingham, Southampton, north London, south London and the list goes on?

"But the most controversial aspect is that the event is not going to be owned by the ECB, it will be a new company in which the ECB would be merely a stakeholder.

"It's a radical suggestion - but it's purely that at the moment."

The ECB led the way in the quickfire form of the game by introducing a domestic Twenty20 competition in 2003.

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