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Page last updated at 17:52 GMT, Thursday, 29 May 2008 18:52 UK

County structure set for revamp

Giles Clarke
ECB chairman Giles Clarke faces a difficult balancing act

The England and Wales Cricket Board met on Thursday to discuss plans that could change the face of the domestic game.

Among the issues discussed were how to restructure domestic cricket to make room for a Twenty20 league and ideas to rival the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Plans to revamp the Pro40 competition were also discussed, as was the structure of the County Championship.

Following the meeting the ECB will now employ market researchers to canvass opinion from fans and broadcasters.

The Professional Cricket Association will also be consulted with results of the survey being delivered back to the ECB in July.

Any changes that are agreed as a result will not come into effect until 2010.

The idea of an English Premier League, which will enable the ECB to compete with the funds being generated in India, is currently being explored and time in the schedule will need to be found to accommodate it.

Chairman Giles Clarke is adamant that any form of EPL will not follow India's lead of city or regional-based franchises and will instead look to accommodate the 18 first-class counties.

During the meeting at Lord's the board were also given a KPMG report into the economic stability of a possible EPL.

That report will now be passed onto the chairmen and chief executives of all the counties at their meeting in early July.

The ECB is also committed to accommodating a quadrangular Twenty20 tournament that will be bankrolled by the Texan billionaire Sir Allen Stanford.

It is widely expected that something in the current schedule will have to give.

The 40-over tournament is the most likely to suffer as it has no place in the current international calendar, but this form of the game is popular with supporters and is relatively lucrative for counties.

A plan to revamp the Pro 40 competition into a format of two 20-over innings per side were also discussed.

Controversial proposals for a three-conference County Championship, instead of the current two-division structure, will also be looked at, as will the idea of returning to three-day championship fixtures.

Nothing will be decided until the latest batch of market research is completed next month and current agreements with broadcasters and sponsors mean any changes will not take place until after the 2009 season.

The ECB faces a difficult balancing act as it is keen to preserve the game's traditions, whilst looking at ways at responding to the success of the IPL and the challenges it has thrown up.

Hampshire's Dimitri Mascheranas was the only English player to be signed up for the Indian tournament, but several have stated their ambition to enjoy a share of the riches on offer one day.

The current IPL season clashed with the start of the English domestic season and the Test series with New Zealand.

Next year's tour to the West Indies will finish a month earlier, possibly allowing England's players to play in India, but room in the domestic schedule would also need to found.

see also
England in New Zealand 2008
26 Mar 08 |  Cricket
MCC group urges calendar change
14 May 08 |  Cricket

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