The domestic cricket season will have an improved shape in 2017 after the ECB Board agreed changes to the season, following discussions with the First Class Counties.
The ECB Board has also asked the ECB Executive to look at all options for the best future structure to support the growth of the game and sustainability of all Counties.
From next year there will be changes to the structure and timing of each of the three domestic competitions; NatWest T20 Blast, Specsavers County Championship and Royal London One-Day Cup.
Confirming the developments, Colin Graves, Chairman of the England & Wales Cricket Board, said: “Today’s decisions follow a number of productive meetings with the Chief Executives and Chairmen of the First Class Counties. We’ve worked closely together, looking to improve the domestic structure for the good of the game.
“The changes for 2017 will be good for fans, players and our international teams. The season is easier to follow, the blocks help players focus on specific skills and there’s a better balance across all three formats.
“There is a clear consensus that County cricket has to be sustainable and must support the whole game. There is an appetite for change and cricket is moving fast – we must not be left behind.
“Cricket needs more people playing, great teams and inspired fans in order to thrive; these principles support our plans now and for the future.”
From the 2017 season:
· Specsavers County Championship games will run throughout the summer and pause during blocks of limited-overs cricket. It will be played in two divisions – a top tier of eight and second division of ten – after one County has been promoted and two relegated this year. It will then revert to two-up, two-down. To ensure a focus on each format and create space in the domestic season, the competition will be reduced from 16 Championship rounds to 14. Each County will play seven home and seven away matches.
· NatWest T20 Blast matches will be played in July and August, within two blocks, contested on a regional basis and culminating in Finals Day, as per the current format. This will make the best use of the summer holiday period to attract a wide family-based audience, encourage participation in the game and focus the skills of players.
· Royal London One-Day Cup group-stage matches will be played in April and May, with the showcase final at Lord’s in July. Group winners will go straight to Semi-Finals with second and third-placed teams entering quarter-finals. The competition will herald a big summer for the 50-over format with the ICC Champions Trophy and ICC Women’s World Cup staged in England and Wales next year.
Tom Harrison, ECB Chief Executive Officer, added: “These are sound decisions reached through constructive discussion – it’s important that everyone was aware before the start of this season how things will work next year.
“For 2017, an early-season block for the Royal London One-Day Cup will let County players focus on the white-ball game and support England’s preparation for the ICC Champions Trophy here.
“NatWest T20 Blast will start later in the summer, when more children and parents are on holiday and can come along, helping to attract new fans and inspire more people to play and attend. The Specsavers County Championship remains the bedrock of the summer, from April to September.
“We now have a great opportunity to take a detailed look at a range of options and find the best structure for the long-term health of the domestic and international game.”
Andrew Strauss, Director, England Cricket at ECB, who was a member of the eight-strong Structure Steering Group, added: “Feedback from players and cricket management is always important in deciding how to shape the season.
“Last year a County player could change between formats as many as 24 times over the summer. Next year that could be down to as few as six. This will help develop skill levels and create a better narrative to the summer.
“A successful England team helps to attract new followers and an improved structure will give us a better chance to both develop our players and to encourage more people to play.”