Advertisement

ECB in talks to ensure cricketers are compensated if county sides go bust

General view of play during Day One of the County Championship Division Two match between Gloucestershire and Worcestershire at The County Ground on April 24, 2016
The upcoming accounts from Gloucestershire are expected to make difficult reading

Senior English cricket officials are holding talks over creating a policy to ensure players are not left unemployed and abandoned should a county club go out of business.

Over the past two years, three clubs from rugby’s Premiership – Wasps, Worcester Warriors and London Irish - as well as a top Championship team in Jersey Reds, have folded, with their players and staff immediately finding themselves unemployed and seeking other work.

Now officials are holding talks to ensure that the same does not happen to cricketers. Representatives from the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have been discussing formalising a policy over what happens to a club’s cricketers if their county goes bust.

The ECB has expressed an absolute determination to ensure that all 18 counties survive, but professional clubs have been hit hard in recent years by the impact of Covid-19, rampant inflation, energy bills and high interest rates, with a number finding themselves in financial difficulty.

Particular concern over Gloucestershire

Insiders have particular concern over the situation at Gloucestershire. Their accounts are due to be published in the next fortnight, and are expected to make even more difficult reading than their most recently published accounts, for the year ending 31 January 2023, which showed a loss of £570,000.

The club’s treasurer, Rebecca Watkin, said in those accounts “there is no disguising the fact that this has not been a good year financially for the club”.

Telegraph Sport revealed in December that Gloucestershire are exploring a move away from the historic Nevil Road ground in Bristol, which has been their home since 1889, to an out-of-town venue with more seats and, crucially, a greater commercial potential. It is understood that club officials are confident that another difficult set of financial results would not provide an existential threat to the club.

The proposed model being discussed would see players paid by the ECB from central funds allocated for that county. These payments to players would last until they were able to source alternative employment up to a fixed period, most likely somewhere between six and 12 months.

Each first-class county receives annual payments from the ECB as part of the county partnership agreement and assorted other fees and funds. For some counties, ECB payments make up more than 50 per cent of total income.

In recent years the ECB has agreed to pay some of this money in advance to counties struggling financially. Last month, an ECB board meeting officially approved a policy regarding such advanced or extra payments to counties, so that a framework of consequences (in terms of points of deductions or similar) is in place should a county have to keep asking for more support.

In 2016, Durham accepted a £3.8 million financial aid package from the ECB, but were relegated in the County Championship and handed a series of points deductions across competitions.

This month, county chiefs will meet with the ECB in the latest round of consultations over the potential sale of part of the eight teams in the Hundred to private investors.

The sale of Hundred teams should ease counties’ financial issues, because the proceeds would be spread through the game, but details over the exact split of funds (and therefore which counties would benefit) is still to be finalised.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.