Following the announcement of the six Women’s Cricket Super League (WCSL) hosts today, ECB’s Director of England Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor, looks ahead to the start of the new competition this summer.
1. You’ve previously mentioned that 28 initial “expressions-of-interest” were received at the start of the bidding process to become a WCSL host. How were the final six decided?
“Securing the final six hosts has been a really exciting process. It was very thorough, starting back in June when any “cricket minded” organisation was encouraged to “express an interest” in becoming a Women’s Cricket Super League (WCSL) team host.
“We had a brilliant initial response, showing straight away that there was a very strong, national appetite for a new, dynamic women’s competition.
“From there we moved to an “invitation to tender” process, where prospective hosts had the opportunity to outline in detail their plans and ambitions. In total, ten bids were received by the closing date on 13th November, and all bidders were invited to interview at the end of the year.
“ECB Chief Executive, Tom Harrison, sat on the interview panel along with myself and other key members of ECB staff, plus an independent member, Sally Horrox.
“Sally has a strong background in law and sports marketing, and was extensively involved in the establishment of the Football Association’s Women’s Super League and England Netball’s Vitality Netball Super League, so her insight was very beneficial throughout the interview process.
“At the conclusion of the interviews the panel assessed each prospective host’s bid submissions, presentations and responses to questions against a published set of evaluation criteria before reaching their decisions. The panel reached a unanimous decision on its six recommended bidders.
“The recommendations were then presented to the ECB Board this morning, where they were also met with unanimous approval.”
2. What about the four bidders that have missed out and will not be involved in the competition – they must be disappointed?
“All of the proposals submitted were refreshing and exciting, and the quality of all ten of the bids was impressive.
“It was brilliant to see the enthusiasm that the Women’s Cricket Super League has generated for the development of women’s cricket, and the award process has clearly provided a real catalyst for a wide range of organisations to look deeply into their individual and collaborative cricket offer for women and girls, and how they can positively shape the future of the game.
“The host award process over the last six months has been thorough, comprehensive and rigorous, and with only six host spots available, inevitably some organisations, with very good proposals, will be disappointed not to be involved.
“Ultimately, it is not just the final six hosts who will be behind the growth of the women’s game, but a range of parties and people who have been engaged throughout this search – I see this as being a valuable by-product of the Women’s Cricket Super League process so far.”
3. Three of the secured hosts are collaborative and three are not. Can anyone add partners at a later date?
“Whilst three of the Women’s Cricket Super League hosts have not named “consortium partners”, all bidders recognised within their bid and throughout the interviews that partnership working will be key to ensuring that the objectives of the WCSL are achieved.
“We are therefore encouraging a collaborative approach between both current cricket organisations and organisations outside of the traditional cricket network.”
4. Cricket Australia’s Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) has been seen as a big success this winter – how will the Women’s Cricket Super League (WCSL) compare to this competition and can it be as successful in its inaugural year?
“Cricket Australia has certainly set the bar high with their new domestic competition for women and we congratulate them. Whilst there are similarities in the drivers behind the Women’s Cricket Super League and Women’s Big Bash League – wanting to further raise standards of performance and encourage participation – they are very different in their identity and formation.
“The WBBL is an extension of the men’s Big Bash League, and it has benefited in terms of infrastructure, operations, personnel and brand recognition, amongst other things. The WCSL is an entirely new proposition for cricket in this country.
“It’s a fresh chapter for the sport and we are all hugely excited that the women’s game is pioneering it.”
5. Is the Women’s Cricket Super League therefore a precursor for the introduction of “franchise” cricket in the professional men’s game in England?
“Not at all. The Women’s Cricket Super League is a standalone entity, created entirely and purely for the benefit of the development of women’s cricket in England – for both performance and participation.”
6. The WBBL has also registered strong television viewing figures this winter – will any of the Women’s Cricket Super League matches be televised?
“Our broadcast partners already give great support to the women’s game through their depth of coverage, with no better example than every single ball of the Women’s Ashes last summer being televised live on Sky Sports and also broadcast live on BBC Radio.
“Given this, I’m sure we will continue to have positive conversations with our broadcast partners about the opportunities offered by this exciting new competition.”
7. When will we know which players are in which teams?
“We have already started the player allocation process and expect to have final squads by Easter.
“One of the principal objectives for the Women’s Cricket Super League is to ensure a “best v best” experience is established, so we need to make sure that teams are evenly matched.
“We will also aim to try and maintain local relationships and allegiances wherever possible, so it is foreseeable for example that the likes of Katherine Brunt, Danielle Hazell and Lauren Winfield will play for the Yorkshire team, while Kate Cross and Natalie Sciver will play for the Lancashire and Surrey teams respectively.”
8. Will players be paid?
“Every player involved with the Women’s Cricket Super League will receive a match fee and expenses for both training and matches. In time we envisage this becoming a semi-professional playing opportunity for women.”
9. How will the competition actually work? When will the match schedule be released?
“The 2016 Women’s Cricket Super League programme will run from Saturday 30th July to Sunday 14th August, with teams playing each other once on a home or away basis. The top four will qualify for a finals day (date to be confirmed in due course).
“We will now work with the six hosts to finalise the schedule.”
10. When can we expect to see a competition logo, confirmed team names and other associated branding?
“There are a number of steps towards the first ball of the competition and we will keep everyone informed as we progress.
“We are already creating the competition logo, developing brand guidelines and design collateral related to the Women’s Cricket Super League. Further information on all of this and team names will be announced in the coming months – watch this space!”
11. Will the ECB be looking to secure any sponsors for the competition?
“From the moment we revealed the concept, potential partners were interested in getting involved and wanting to help us to grow the game. Discussions are well underway and, as ever, we will announce any commercial arrangements as and when they are confirmed.”
12. This summer is just going to be a T20 competition – is it still the intention of the ECB to introduce a Women’s Cricket Super League 50-over competition in 2017?
“The Women’s Cricket Super League will get underway this summer with the six teams competing in a T20 event. In future seasons the competition will include both T20 and 50-over formats.”