The England and Wales Cricket Board are expected to resist plans to implement a new Twenty20 tournament into domestic cricket based on the Indian Premier League.
The plans, drafted by MCC secretary Keith Bradshaw and Surrey chairman David Stewart and discussed at length with officials at Hampshire and Lancashire, propose a radical new format to the county structure.
They suggest a new 57-match Twenty20 tournament spanning 25 days, with nine teams based at the main Test and one-day international grounds in this country backed by city investors.
Each team would feature a mixture of homegrown and overseas players and initial projections predict a profit of £50?million in the first year, with the potential to generate around £85?million a year.
It would be run by a new Twenty20 Limited company rather than the ECB and, under the proposals, the new tournament would replace the existing 40-over competition in the county structure.
But ECB chairman Giles Clarke appeared to distance himself from the proposals yesterday and stressed: “There have been a lot of ideas pushed around, most of debatable economic validity.
“Quite a lot of it is probably not going to find favour with me; there may be elements of it to take into consideration.
“I am firmly in favour of 18 counties playing matches for their home crowds. I don’t see why they should be fearful for their county futures.”
He said: “The board agreed at their last meeting on an 18-county structure. We’re very firm that the 18-county structure taking the game around the country is really important for cricket in England and Wales.
“History and tradition is something only a fool breaks asunder. We need to ensure whatever is produced will be economically viable, will provide cricket people want to watch and the right format for our national side in all forms of cricket.”
The proposals, which are due to be presented at the ECB Board meeting on Tuesday attended by all 18 counties and the MCC, set out plans for each consortium to enter a bidding process for players similar to that seen in this year’s inaugural IPL.
Each squad would have a proposed salary cap of £1.5?million and must include 12 homegrown players, with three of those under 23 years of age, while there would be an auction for overseas players.
All profits and revenue from the tournament would be shared between the ECB, who would distribute it down to the counties and grassroots cricket, and overseas boards, who would provide some of the star players.
The plans also include a separate Friday night Twenty20 tournament and a limited-overs competition – probably 50-overs – to be run at the weekends.
It is the first serious attempt to rival the highly-successful IPL, which is planning to have two tournaments a year from 2011, and has made such an impact that, in a recent survey, 50 per cent of England players confirmed they would consider retiring early to play in it.
But it is also likely to cause some concern among the smaller counties, many of whom would fear for their future, although if the financial figures are correct, it would secure far greater income for the counties than ever before.
The report believes English cricket could benefit from as much as £850?million over a 10-year period, which would more than compensate the counties for losing the 40-over competition.
Bradshaw stressed: “The figures included in these plans would not have been put in unless they were verifiable and auditable.”
Unlike other recent proposals into the restructuring of county cricket, these also contain a commitment to championship cricket, although whether it remains in its present state will depend on support from the counties.
Bradshaw added: “There is a responsibility for all of us as administrators to make sure that we look after the counties and the clubs.”
While the ECB can brace themselves for a long discussion into the proposals on Tuesday, Clarke is confident next summer’s fixtures against Sri Lanka will take place without too much disruption from the IPL.
Reports from Sri Lanka, who stepped in to replace Zimbabwe as England’s opponents, suggested the senior players wanted to play in the IPL being staged at the same time.
That would have left England facing a shadow Sri Lanka side in two Tests and three one-day internationals, but Clarke said: “That will be a matter for the ICC, it’s a Future Tours Programme fixture. The Indian Premier League have not been involved in any of this frenzied speculation. It has come from Sri Lanka, from players rather than the board.
“We will let the ICC do the right thing by ensuring the FTP remains a central plank of the game. We haven’t had any formal communication from our friends in Sri Lanka – we have to await events.
“We have enthusiastic supporters all over the country. The Test match in Durham will be sold out, and I don’t see why we should stop the people of Durham watching the national side play a very good side.”