ECB in U-turn as Yorkshire women to join ‘tier one’ league after snub sparked backlash

A general view of the inside of Headingley Stadium
All this comes at a time of uncertainty for Yorkshire - Getty Images/Ashley Allen

A change of heart from the ECB has seen Yorkshire’s entry to the top tier of women’s domestic cricket brought forward a year to 2026, after they protested against their initial omission.

Earlier this year the England and Wales Cricket Board invited bids to host teams in the eight-strong Tier One, which will replace the current regional structure next year. The idea is to move the women’s domestic game from a performance structure designed to feed the national team to a professional structure with a fan culture.

Sixteen of the 18 first-class counties submitted bids last month and Durham were chosen over Yorkshire, who were unexpectedly named as one of two expansion sides to join in 2027, along with Glamorgan. Yorkshire, who have been the primary hosts of the regional team Northern Diamonds, were condemned to playing in the semi-professional Tier Two.

Yorkshire did not hide their disappointment over the decision, and even wrote to the ECB offering to self-fund a team in Tier One from next year. Yorkshire’s first female president, Jane Powell, told the Yorkshire Post that the decision ignored “logic or facts”. Richard Gould, the ECB chief executive, attended a Yorkshire board meeting to explain the decision.

Yorkshire’s letter has worked, as the ECB announced on Tuesday evening that its board had approved entry to Tier One from 2026.

A statement read: “The ECB Yorkshire’s funding for 2026 will increase to £1.5m per year, and their introduction to Tier 1 is contingent on adhering to various conditions, concentrating on governance, strategy and finance.”

ECB Director of Women’s Professional Game Beth Barrett-Wild said: “We talked in April about the strength of the bids brought to the ECB and about the pace with which we all want the game to progress to the next level.

“Yorkshire’s desire to be part of Tier 1 as soon as possible is clear, and we believe it’s the best decision for them, the women’s game, and most importantly for the players as they enter a phase of contract negotiation, to provide as much certainty as we can about the introduction timeline for both Yorkshire and Glamorgan.”

While the news will delight Yorkshire, it has brought dismay at some other counties – both those successful in bidding for Tier One and not – as they look to contract players for next season. England and Yorkshire player Lauren Winfield-Hill told Wisden that Northern Diamonds players were “unsettled” by the original decision, and this is unlikely to help.

All this comes at a time of uncertainty for Yorkshire, whose chairman Colin Graves told members on Monday that they need to demutualise – to cease to be member-owned – if they are to survive because of financial difficulties.

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