ECB chair suggests giving players three-year deals to stop move to franchises
Richard Thompson, the new chair of the England and Wales Cricket Board, has suggested the organisation will consider offering players long-term contracts in an effort to stop them turning their backs on international cricket in favour of a more lucrative life on the global franchise circuit.
The proliferation of Twenty20 competitions has massively increased players’ earning potential, allowing someone like Liam Livingstone – whose white-ball contract with the ECB might be worth up to £300,000 – to secure in one year a $150,000 (£130,000) deal to play for Peshawar Zalmi in the Pakistan Super League and a 115m rupee (£1.3m) contract from Punjab Kings to play in the Indian Premier League, as well as $500,000 to play in the new South African league, which launches in January.
“I do feel we are at an inflection point, a tipping point, of how we control our talent and are not losing them,” said Thompson, speaking at the Oval during the washed out first day of the third Test between England and South Africa. “If in five years’ time we’ve lost our best talent to multiple global tournaments then that’s a tragedy … We’ve got to guard against it and we’ve got to create a pathway. That involves a lot more thinking then we are doing at the moment.
“We’ve got to find ways [with] the schedule, the financial commitments, other areas where it’s not all about money [like] security, that we can provide them. If you’re going from one league to another and you get injured, you’re done. But if a country can say, ‘Here’s a three-year contract,’ that’s very different.”
Thompson believes that the proliferation of international franchises is unsustainable, and that “there has to be a point where you just say: ‘Enough’.” He added: “There is so much volume coming, at some point there will be a shake-up. I can’t see how every competition will flourish. There’s bound to be a levelling-off at some point.”
Thompson revealed that though many aspects of Andrew Strauss’s high performance review have been broadly welcomed the counties’ vote on the proposals, originally scheduled for 20 September, had been postponed to allow for more consultation. “We want to reach the right decision,” he said. “There is no date for the vote. It was never set in stone.”
Thompson complained that fitting four competitions – the County Championship, the Royal London Cup, the Blast and the Hundred – into an English summer was “like the worst game of Jenga ever”. Strauss has suggested a reorganised County Championship comprised of three six-team divisions, with one side relegated from the top flight each year, in an effort to reduce the number of matches and concentrate talent at the highest level. Thompson insisted that there is nothing unsporting about such an arrangement.
“There are some counties that find it hard to compete in every format, and are going to put more of their resources in white-ball and less in red-ball,” he said. “We need to be clear that there are counties that can afford to play in every format and others that can’t. It’s important we are creating the most competitive red-ball league in the world, that’s got to be the outcome of this.”