Counties could go part-time, warns Graves
Colin Graves, outgoing chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, has warned that some counties will have to go part-time to preserve their long-term futures.
Graves, who leaves his role at the ECB at the end of the month, told The Daily Telegraph that the Covid-19 crisis offered English cricket a once-in-a-generation opportunity to restructure the domestic game. He has become the first senior ECB figure to state publicly that he thinks the traditional structure of English cricket needs to be shaken up.
The counties were told last month that the game faces losing a minimum of £106million this year due to the pandemic. The Hundred competition has been postponed by 12 months and huge costs have been incurred to provide biosecure environments for international cricket to be played behind closed doors.
Graves, who spent 13 years as Yorkshire chairman before taking over at the ECB from Giles Clarke in 2015, believes 18 full-time counties playing all three formats professionally will struggle to survive in the post-Covid world. Instead, he suggests that counties can remain
fully professional in white-ball formats, but can be reduced to 12 playing first-class cricket professionally.
“This is just my opinion, but I would like them to look at that – it would be better for everybody in the game,” he said. “Better for players and counties. They could concentrate on what they are good at.
“It is an opportune time to restructure the county game: the way it is run, the way the competitions are run. I think the stakeholders need a frank and honest discussion about it, this is an opportunity to look at restructuring the game.
“On my last conference call with the county chairmen, that is one of the things I said to them. Be prepared to sit down and discuss the future for the good of the game and not just you individually.
“I think they [18 counties] can survive and there is a role for them. In white-ball cricket that is easy.
They can play 50-over, 20-over cricket and compete. But I just don’t see the point when looking at the bottom end of our red-ball game, where it is producing nothing. Yes, the counties can survive, but I think it might be in a different role or position to now.”
Graves will be replaced by Ian Watmore, the former chief executive of the Football Association, on Sept 1. Watmore is certain to order a wide-ranging review into the financial structure of English cricket.
There is now uncertainty over whether the Hundred will go ahead, especially if crowds are unable to attend matches next summer.
“If it doesn’t go ahead I would be very disappointed and the ECB will have missed a massive opportunity,” Graves said. “I think The Hundred is one of the keys to the long-term future of the ECB. Not only as an asset, it will also bring the new audience we want.”