ECB set to consider Twenty20 proposals
The future shape of Twenty20 cricket in this country will be discussed by the hierarchy of the England and Wales Cricket Board tomorrow.
Proposals for the expansion of the 20-over format, and an increase in its profile and earning capacity in England, will be discussed in a board meeting at Lord's.
Any approved suggestions for a new competition will then be put on the table for approval by the county chairmen, who meet at the same venue on Wednesday.
Two sets of plans have found their way into the public domain thus far: the first involving franchises based on the Indian Premier League and another incorporating all 18 first-class counties.
The second is the brainchild of former ECB deputy chairman Mike Soper and an alternative to the more selective competition envisaged by MCC secretary Keith Bradshaw and Surrey chairman David Stewart, which would involve only the nine counties with Test grounds.
Under those proposals, the smaller counties would participate in a separate Twenty20 tournament held on Friday evenings.
It has attracted criticism from the smaller counties, who believe it would create a financial division between the haves and have-nots, and is not expected to gain enough support to be put into practice.
But Soper has devised a plan which, he says, would improve facilities and capacities to help generate more revenue.
"At the moment only the Test match grounds have the sort of capacity to cope with an upsurge in public demand," Soper said.
"To make money for the whole of cricket I believe we should have two leagues of nine, split into Test match grounds and non-Test match grounds.
"For the first three years, whatever the money is from TV and sponsors - and I have heard sums of between £40 and £50million - should be split on a basis of two thirds to the large grounds and one third to the non Test match grounds.
"But the non-Test match grounds have to be helped to improve their facilities and increase their capacity. Therefore I propose that the Test match grounds lose £500,000 of their annual ECB hand-out, presently £1.3 million, and that half million goes to the nine smaller grounds to help them to finance ground improvements."
Any 'English Premier League' format is expected to replace the unloved Pro40 competition.
The more exclusive proposals by MCC, Surrey, Hampshire and Lancashire would see the new tournament spanning 25 days between June and July, from the 2010 summer onwards.
Despite projections of a £50million profit in its first year and potential to generate £85million a year to be shared between the ECB, many of the smaller counties have complained it would result in a wealth gap in the domestic game.
But a statement from Bradshaw and Stewart read: "We make no apologies for preparing this board discussion paper as we strongly believe that the idea of an English Twenty20 tournament, taking the best from the Indian Premier League and combining it with the strengths of the English game, is worthy of considerable debate and discussion.
"It was the intention of the paper to stimulate discussion and, if the idea is welcomed by the Board, we want to engage all the counties in a consultative process. We welcome the debate that will now take place.
"There already has been speculation about whether such a tournament can generate extra revenue for cricket. We are aware of significant interest from potential financial backers and are confident that a tournament, along the lines we set out in the paper, can generate considerable revenues for all 18 counties and the grass roots of the game."