Counties split over contingency plans for new domestic season

Counties split over contingency plans for 2021 season including postponing County Championship for second successive year

  • Professional game group have proposed switching T20 fixtures to September
  • They hope bigger crowds will be permitted to sports events later in the season 
  • Vitality Blast matches provide the most significant income to the counties

A divide has emerged among the 18 first-class counties over contingency plans for the 2021 domestic season that include postponing the County Championship for a second successive year.

The professional game group, who designed last year’s truncated schedule, have proposed switching June’s Twenty20 matches with the block of first-class fixtures in September in the hope that bigger crowds will be permitted to sports events later in the season — and then revenue from a Vitality Blast competition worth around £25million in gate receipts can be maximised.

Under those proposed changes to a county calendar announced at the turn of this year, the crucial divisional aspect to what is a conference-style Championship season would be lost and only a Bob Willis Trophy would be presented to England’s first-class winners, as it was to Essex at Lord’s last September.

Divide has emerged among the 18 first-class counties over plans for the new domestic season

Some county chiefs believe that would infuriate traditional members, thousands of whom donated their annual subscriptions despite not seeing a ball bowled during a behind-closed-doors competition last summer.

There is widespread agreement, however, that a Championship pennant should not be awarded to a team who potentially avoid several of their most competitive rivals but play multiple times against the worst teams, as can be the case with a three-conference system.

But rearranging a first-class season to arrange a split into three divisions after 10 rounds — when the rest of the 2021 calendar is now set in stone — will prove extremely difficult.

The County Championship could be postponed in 2021 for the second year in a row 

Talk within English cricket is of restricted crowds — similar to last autumn’s tier-based system of between 1,000 and 2,500 fans for football — by midsummer and crowds of around 40-60 per cent capacity by September.

Aside from ECB hand-outs of £3.6-3.8m annually — which have remained untouched, despite 20 per cent cuts by the governing body — attendances at Vitality Blast matches give the county game its most significant income.

The ECB are in the hands of the counties as it is they who will dictate what format of cricket is played and when. One merit of the professional game group’s Plan B is that it offers a greater chance for county members and others to watch more live cricket this year.

Cricket chiefs are desperate to get some levels of crowds back for the T20 Vitality Blast

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