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Page last updated at 05:53 GMT, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 06:53 UK

Counties split on Twenty20 idea

By Simon Austin

Indian Premier League
The IPL has been the catalyst for change in England

County chiefs are split on the make-up of a potential English Premier League as they prepare to meet in London.

The England and Wales Cricket Board holds its annual general meeting at Lord's on Tuesday, with the domestic game facing radical change.

Several counties are open to the idea of a new Twenty20 league made up of a handful of city-based franchises.

Others are opposed and Somerset chief Richard Gould told BBC Sport: "My aim is to knock this idea on the head".

While the EPL is not listed as an item on the agenda for the meeting at Lord's, it is still bound to be discussed.

And representatives from the 18 first-class counties will hold informal talks ahead of the meeting.

We are hugely against regionalising - that would lead, eventually, to eight franchises for all forms of the game

Richard Gould
Somerset chief

Surrey chief executive Paul Sheldon has mooted the idea of the counties being regrouped into franchises such as "Vodafone London" in the wake of the creation of the Indian Premier League.

And Sean Morris, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association, has admitted he doubts whether an EPL made up of the existing 18 counties would be a viable commercial proposition.

He said: "When you look at the broadcasting deal that will drive it and for sponsorship partners and for fans, does playing 18 teams really stack up?"

But Gould said a Twenty20 Premier League based on franchises would set the game on a slippery slope.

"We are hugely against regionalising - that would lead, eventually, to the domestic game being reduced to eight regional franchises for all forms of the game," he said.

"I don't have a problem with an EPL, as long as it involves the 18 counties. Otherwise it would drastically reduce the number of English-qualified players available.

"The Test-match playing grounds might benefit, because they would host the matches but the rest of county cricket would not."

Leicestershire chief Neil Davidson agreed, telling BBC Sport: "Franchises would be a negative and could turn a lot of people off the game".

There's really no need for us to merge, but I think it could work in some areas of the country where the counties are pretty close together

Jim Cumbes
Lancashire chief

He added: "As long as the idea is a revenue generator that favours the game as a whole, I'm in favour.

"But we need to think about everyone, the minor counties, grassroots cricket and the Test-match grounds."

However, Lancashire chief Jim Cumbes says he could see the benefit of some counties merging to take part in an EPL.

"There's really no need for us to merge, or Yorkshire or a number of other counties, but I think it could work in some areas of the country where the counties are pretty close together," he told BBC Sport.

"We should be seriously looking at setting up our own Premier League. I could envisage two divisions, with promotion and relegation between the two, like the football Premier League.

"And I think it could happen as early as next year, with the top nine teams from our Twenty20 competition this year forming a Premier League."

Middlesex chief Vinny Codrington agreed that a franchise system could be "a huge success", so long as it benefitted all of the counties.


The ECB plans to discuss its proposals for the future structure of the domestic game at another meeting on 26 May.

An ECB delegation, led by the chief executive David Collier and chairman Giles Clarke, held exploratory discussions with Indian Premier League officials earlier this month.

Both have vowed to protect the interests of the existing first-class counties, but TV executives, potential sponsors and Texas-based billionaire Sir Allen Stanford are believed to have advised that an 18-team league would not be an attractive commercial proposition.

Last week the ECB secured 75m from Stanford for two T20 events - a series of five matches to be played in Antigua annually between England and Stanford's all-stars and a four-team Twenty20 tournament at Lord's for the next five years.

see also
Cumbes favours new Twenty20 plan
25 Apr 08 |  Lancashire
England close to Twenty20 revamp
25 Apr 08 |  England

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