Counties defer domestic structure decisions

What happens if you put 18 county chairmen, 18 county chief executives and their counterparts from the Professional Cricketers’ Association in a room and ask them to decide on a future structure of the county game? You’ve got it: stalemate.

Which is precisely what happened at Lord’s when the England and Wales Cricket Board made another attempt to decide what should happen to domestic cricket from next season.

The gathering, on March 1, was described as a consultation meeting at which no vote was taken but which left most of those who attended underwhelmed by the experience.

A little progress was made, it seems, on the Friends Provident t20 which is almost certain to revert to a ten matches per-county format in 2012 and beyond.

But a decision on whether the County Championship will remain as a 16-match competition, or be trimmed down to 14 matches played in a revised structure of an eight-team Division One and a ten-team Division Two, was deferred.

It now seems that some counties wanted a little more time to reach a decision and so the ECB are expected to send out a small questionnaire, to be returned before the ECB board meets on March 22.

Counties will be asked to decide whether they think retaining the integrity of the current Championship structure, which has the benefit of symmetry with each side playing the other teams in their division twice, is more valuable than the financial rewards on offer for competing in the Champions League.

Only two counties – the Friends Provident t20 winners and runners-up – stand to make big bucks by playing in the Champions League, whose steady encroachment into September has already led to the domestic season being shortened by more than a week.

The ECB is also expected to ask the PCA to take soundings from the players on whether they want to retain a 16-match County Championship or compete in the Champions League.

A survey of all county players conducted by the PCA last year concluded that they wanted the opportunity to play in the Champions League and a 16-match Championship.

A decision on next year’s county structure will have to be made on March 22 so that counties know what they will playing for before this season begins on April 8.

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