ICL: Indian Cricket League

England ponders six-region option


If England is to create a viable Twenty20 competition to rival the Indian Premier League, then the 18 first-class counties are going to have to bite the bullet and merge into six regional sides. That is the message from Sean Morris, the new chief executive of the Professional Cricketers’ Association, who believes that without adaptation, English cricket faces being second-best to India for evermore.

“This is a great opportunity for English cricket, an unbelievable chance for England to reassert itself,” Morris told The Guardian. “I just hope we take it. India, a big competitor, has got first to the market. Considering that we invented Twenty20, they should not have got there first. It is important that we act quickly.”

Morris’s proposal is expected to be discussed at a meeting of the England & Wales Cricket Board on May 26, but plans are already in full swing following a week of talks with Allen Stanford, the Texan billionaire whose patronage has given English cricket renewed confidence as it seeks to respond to the threat of the IPL. Stanford told the BBC on Thursday that he believed that England was not only better placed to take the lead in Twenty20 cricket, but that the game could eventually overtake football as the world’s most popular sport.

Should the regional plan come to fruition, there could be some enticing amalgamations on the cards. Lancashire and Yorkshire could be thrown in together with Durham as a Northern region, with Surrey, Middlesex and Essex all uniting under the London banner. Such a proposal may be anathema to the die-hard fans of the counties involved, but Morris cited the example of South African rugby, where traditional Currie Cup rivals have combined to form potent Super 14 franchises.

“This is the biggest opportunity we will ever get to restructure,” said Morris. His argument is that, without reducing the number of competing sides, the talent on display would be spread too thinly, and the prospect of attracting the big-name players would diminish. “When you look at the broadcasting deal that will drive it and for sponsorship partners and for fans, does playing 18 teams really stack up? We need to have a product that is exportable back to India, because that is where the money is.”

Stanford is willing to invest heavily in the scheme, but has effectively set the ECB a deadline of 2010 to get the competition up and running. “If I was to make a more aggressive bet I would say 2009. But no later than 2010 or they’ve missed the boat,” he told BBC Sport. “We all know that and I don’t think the British are going to miss the boat.”

Potential regional sides

North Yorkshire, Lancashire, Durham
London Surrey, Middlesex, Essex
South Hampshire, Kent, Sussex
Wales and West Glamorgan, Gloucestershire, Somerset
West Midlands Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Northants
East Midlands Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire

Source:Cricket News

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