The world has come into a standstill because of the global pandemic novel coronavirus. All the sporting events have either stopped or postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak for the time being. However, Clare Connor, England and Wales Cricket Board’s managing director of women’s cricket has shared that she thinks men’s international fixtures may have to be prioritised before women’s fixtures this year owing to safeguard the future of the women’s game in England.
England were about to host T20 World Cup runners-up India in June and July. The series was about to take place just before the inaugural edition of The Hundred. Moreover, they were about to host a summer-ending series against South Africa in September too. However, amid this situation, every event has postponed. While the Hundred launch has postponed for a year, India’s tour has also moved from its original dates, as the ECB and BCCI have been working together to arrange another slot later this year. If this will happen, South Africa’s tour remains unaffected as well as the domestic cricket.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Tom Harrison, ECB Chief Executive, said to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Select Committee that the game would suffer a 100 million pound loss because of COVID-19 no matter how many series will take place later this summer. That loss will increase to 380 million pounds if no cricket takes place. However, Clare Connor believes some behind closed doors cricket can help this situation. She also shared that men’s internationals would have to be prioritised over women’s to help reduce that financial loss.
“If the international women’s schedule can’t be fulfilled in full but a large amount of the international men’s programme can this summer, which is going to reduce that 380million hole, we have to be realistic about that,” Clare Connor said. “We’ve got these long-term ambitions for the game that extend beyond this summer and trying to protect as much investment as possible over the next five years, that is largely going to come down to how much international men’s cricket can be staged.”
“I’m realistic about that, that’s not to say we won’t be fighting hard to play our international schedule against India and South Africa as best we can. But we’re only going to have a few venues, if any, in operation and if that ends up being two bio-secure environments or three, there’s only a certain number of days to try to cram everything into.”
She also admitted that it would be “enormously disappointing” if no international women’s cricket will take place played this summer. “We have to communicate really well and honestly about what we are doing and why we are doing it,” she said. “I don’t think you can argue with the rationale and in order for the whole game to survive, the financial necessity rests upon many of those international men’s matches being fulfilled.”
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However, the ECB took the initiative of the 20-million action plan last year to transform women’s and girls’ cricket with the goal of developing a gender-balanced game. It is one of the long-term initiatives as Connor mentioned but Harrison has publicly refused to talk about that money in light of the impacts of COVID-19. Clare Connor said that even if cuts are made, the board’s commitment towards women’s cricket will be there.
“There is no part of the ECB that has been afforded ring-fenced funding, absolutely no part,” Connor said. “We can’t give that guarantee of ring-fencing but what we can give is a guarantee that that vision for the game remains unchanged. All of the principles that led to the investment in the women’s and girl’s game about growth potential, having a more gender-balanced sport, giving the girls the opportunity to get on a pathway and to earn a living from the game remains unchanged.”
“The women’s and girls’ game, we know it can achieve all of our growth ambitions as a sport and when we come out of this we are clear about the sport we want to be and that is a sport for everyone. If this pandemic has shown us anything, it’s shown us about the need for a more equal society and so the commitment to making the game better for women and girls is very steadfast,” she expressed.
While England’s centrally contracted players have agreed for a 10% pay cut, they have the security with the ECB deal. However, the future of other domestic players is more uncertain. While forty players were about to receive full-time contracts from May 1st, those have been put on hold. Moreover, The Hundred launch delay has also raised the question about the fear that some players might lose to the game because of the financial disaster.
“We are still hopeful of awarding those 40 contracts this year,” Connor said. “It won’t obviously be on 1 May because that would be completely out of kilter with what the rest of the world is going through and with most of our cohort of men’s domestic players on furlough. That would not be an appropriate move at all. But we are hopeful of being able to award those contracts later on in the year.”
“What we are doing is we are looking at, in the interim, how we can show those players that we care. And that they are still very important and value and motivated. We want to keep them motivated and we don’t want to lose them to other career opportunities that might present themselves.”
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She further added, “We are looking to how we might set-up some kind of retainer system in the meantime. We are working through the details of that at the moment. Obviously the money is there to be able to do that and it would be a lower financial package that a full-time salary amount. But I think it’s really important to us that those players know we are still behind them.”
Meanwhile, Clare Connor also confirmed that the final arrangements with the ECB’s eight new regions have already completed. Even the Directors of Women’s Cricket have appointed as well. This will give the cricketers chance to play 50-over and T20 cricket for their region alongside The Hundred.
“My guarantee and I think Tom [Harrison] made it pretty clear yesterday and the whole leadership team are behind that is that the women’s and girls’ game, we know it can achieve all of our growth ambitions as a sport and when we come out of this we are clear about the sport we want to be and that is a sport for everyone. If this pandemic has shown us anything, it’s shown us about the need for a more equal society and so the commitment to making the game better for women and girls is very steadfast,” Clare Connor concluded.