In a bid to ensure that cricket can withstand what Tom Harrison, chief executive of the ECB, describes as ‘the biggest challenge’ the governing body has faced in history, they have announced a £61 million financial support package.

Harrison expressed that the £40 million will be made available immediately. It will have measures including an early release of three months’ county partnership distributions and two years of facilities maintenance distribution. It will hold for the four months suspension of the international staging fees which are paid by clubs to hold England fixtures at their grounds.

The £21 million will later become available to the indefinitely suspended sport through a club cricket support loan scheme along with a ‘return to cricket’ scheme and a 12-month holiday on loan repayments.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been particularly severe for larger counties with diversified sources of revenue. This is because a smaller portion of their income comes from a guaranteed ECB funding. Therefore, it will come as a relief that the staging fees will be suspended.

Harrison also confirmed the following points:

  • Players with central contracts will not be furloughed or asked to give pay cuts.
  • ECB is exploring the possibility of furloughing some of its staff.
  • Harrison volunteered a pay cut of pro-rata terms, amounting to over £100,000 a year.
  • If fixtures can be squeezed into the back end of the season, it is possible that two different England teams (Test and limited-overs) will play simultaneously
  • The feasibility of playing inside ‘bio-secure environments’ is being explored in talks with the government.

As things stand, social distancing measures are likely to remain in place in the UK for several months. The start of the country season has already been delayed by six weeks, tentatively scheduled to start on the 28th of May.

Several options that are currently being modelled with possible start dates ranging from June until August while options for games being played behind closed doors are being planned.

There is also a possibility that the entire season will be wiped out. The T20 Blast and the Hundred, England’s most lucrative domestic competitions, will be prioritized.

Harrison expressed that the crisis is a real hammer blow to their plans with the season being massively under threat. ‘It’s an incredibly difficult time for the country and the game,’ he added.

‘Everyone will be impacted. Right now we are addressing the short term. There’s more pain ahead if we lose a substantial portion of the season. We are building scenarios where we can take further steps needed. We don’t think this will be the end of it,’ Harrison also conveyed.

He stated that they won’t be playing cricket matches; odds are it will take a while until they know for sure that it’s safe for the players and the fans. They will also be prioritizing the most valuable forms of the game—first is international cricket, next is the Blast and maybe the Hundred when they get there.

When it comes to the subject of The Hundred, Harrison conceded that the new competition’s inaugural season could yet to be delayed until 2021. He added that the ECB has already been in discussions with the government about the feasibility of getting crowds back into stadiums before the English season ends. If that fails, they are also talking about the logistics involved in getting to play behind closed doors and boost cricket match odds.