By Rosie Foley
New plans from the ECB has meant speculation over the number of teams cut from the women’s top-level domestic cricket; from 35 to 10 teams. Although, they do this with the intention to increase the number of women paid to play from 22 to at least 120 from 2020.
ECB’s intentions are to modernise the structure of the women’s amateur game and to introduce a 50-over and Twenty20 competition with 10 teams. However, they will not be announcing anything until later this year after they have had talks with the counties.
For the 2019 season which starts in May, there are six teams in the T20 Kia Super League who earn a small amount. Whereas the 35 sides competing in the county championship, 50-over competition and the county T20 cup will not get paid.
The ECB’s rejuvenation of the leagues would bring payment for English women so that it mirrors the Australian set up, where around 130 players are paid professionals or semi-professional. With hope that from 2020 the women’s game would be elevated by a £1.2 billion broadcasting deal that would run provisionally until 2024.
However, this proposal of ten elite teams could be interpreted as the Super League teams plus four regional sides. This proposal could feature the ten top counties, or ten regional teams, bringing a collaboration of the best players from several counties. Although, there is worry about what this means for the counties not involved in this competition, possibly a focus on age-group and academy cricket.
Lydia Clements, Captain of Cardiff University Ladies Cricket Club acknowledges that the ECB are trying to help growth towards the professional game but thinks that decreasing teams will do the opposite. Clements believes that there is still a lot to do until the women’s game can reach the heights of the men’s.
‘We appreciate that the ECB are planning to create more professional contracts for women, but taking away teams isn’t going to help grow the women’s game.’
‘There’s still a long way to go to reach the same profile as the men’s. The next stage would be for it to be introduced into the commonwealth games in 2022 in Birmingham.’
Although, Clement notes that England’s win in the world cup in 2017, under Heather Knight, Cardiff University alumni, has brought a significant growth to the sport not only nationwide but also for the university team.
‘England’s win in the world cup and their success under Heather Knight, women’s cricket has helped the game so much. There’s more funding and initiatives than there has ever been.’
‘Last season CULCC saw our biggest season since Heather Knight played for us. We returned to the outdoor league after five years and nearly doubled our membership.’
However, the club is still struggling for numbers and Clements believes in the short term that the cut in the women’s teams will cause a ‘backlash’, but hopes that in the future it will increase the number of players getting payed to play the sport they love.
Time will only tell as to what decision the ECB make and how it will effect the future of women’s cricket.