ECB announces major overhaul for domestic women’s cricket from 2025
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has announced plans for a three-tier structure and a significant change in ownership model for women’s cricket starting from 2025.
Presently, the collaborative regional model for domestic women’s cricket sees first-class counties hosting teams such as Central Sparks, North West Thunder, Northern Diamonds, South East Stars, Southern Vipers, Sunrisers, The Blaze and Western Storm.
However, the ECB has called upon the 18 first-class counties and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) to submit bids by March 10th to own, govern and operate one of these eight hubs, which will be transformed into ‘tier one clubs’.
These tier one clubs will participate in the ECB’s professional 50-over and Twenty20 competitions from the upcoming summer season. There will be two lower divisions, with tier two expected to comprise 10 to 14 teams and tier three accommodating 16 to 20 teams.
While the names of the existing hubs remain undecided, the ECB aims to foster a sense of unity by aligning the women’s game with the first-class counties or MCC.
Find out more about the next stage in the evolution of the professional women’s game, with First Class Counties and the MCC invited to bid to become a Tier 1 Club.
— England and Wales Cricket Board (@ECB_cricket) February 1, 2024
“There is an element at the moment with how the women’s and men’s professional games are set up, they are slightly separate,” said Beth Barrett-Wild, Director of Women’s Professional Game at the ECB.
“There is this sense of otherness around women’s teams. We want to make sure we’re really embedding that within the game and that the players in particular have that stability moving forwards.
“The women’s cricket landscape has shifted enormously, which means perhaps there is a recognition that to have a thriving, sustainable, relevant future, that is having the men and women together.”
The existing regional model has witnessed significant progress in the professionalisation of women’s cricket, with central funding from the ECB. The switch in ownership model is expected to enhance commercial appeal while ensuring continued funding from the ECB.
“All we know is that investing in the women’s game is the single biggest opportunity for cricket, not just in this country but across the world,” commented Richard Gould, ECB Chief Executive.
“We are in this for the long term and we are hoping that over the next five, 10 or 15 years, we will see a significant uplift in broadcast revenue and ticket sales for the women’s game.
“We want it to be a fully-fledged, sustainable, commercial, professional game. We know that’s going to take a long time because we’re making up for lost ground over many decades.”
The tender submission process has garnered positive feedback from county chief executives and chairs, with a panel comprising members of the ECB board, its executive team and independent experts set to oversee the venture.
The identities of tier one clubs are expected to be announced in April, with Barrett-Wild expressing confidence in receiving outstanding submissions despite the tough decisions ahead.