City-based T20 tournament wins ECB vote

April 28, 2017

Plans for a city-based twenty20 tournament of eight teams along the lines of the Indian Premier League (IPL) or Australia's Big Bash League have gained the approval of members if the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

Of the 41 members, 38 voted in favour of the plan, which will see the competition of city-based franchises playing in a tournament of 36 matches in a 38-day window, with the first tournament taking place in 2020. All the matches will be televised, many of them free-to-air, and the tournament will have a play-off system at the end like the IPL to determine the champions. Each squad will have 15 players with a draft system, including three overseas players. 

The only opponents of the scheme were Middlesex and Essex, while Kent abstained. Under ECB rules, it needed 31 votes in favour for the proposal to be passed.

Cricket lovers can still enjoy the Natwest T20 Blast, which will not overlap with the new tournament. That means fans can still see county sides like Surrey playing at the Kia Oval

Commenting on the scheme, ECB chairman Colin Graves said he "passionately" believed the decision was the right one.

He added: "Each of our members will benefit and, critically, so will the whole game. We can now move on with building an exciting new competition for a new audience to complement our existing competitions.

"Our clear ambition is that this new competition will sit alongside the IPL and Big Bash League as one of the world's major cricket tournaments."

The plan had been received with mixed opinions, as some fans, ex-players and commentators expressed doubts about how it might affect the future of the county game. It was such concerns that led to three of the counties opting not to vote for it. Essex were worried that focusing on major cities would exclude some parts of the country, while Middlesex felt there would be few financial benefits from having a London-based team at Lord's. 

Mr Graves, however, insisted: "The benefits it will bring can deliver a sustainable future for all 18 first-class counties and an exciting future for the game in England and Wales."

Keen advocates of the change have included former England captain Michael Vaughan, who has previously noted that the average crowd for a T20 game in England is much lower than those in Australia.

Under the current system, however, some games draw crowds more in keeping with international matches. Derbies between Surrey and Middlesex, Warwickshire and Worcestershire or the Rose Match are examples of this; the Lancashire v Yorkshire clash in July is already a sell-out. 

While Surrey fans will be able to look forward to seeing both their county and a London side playing Twenty20 cricket at the Kia Oval, one man who will not be a part of it is Zafar Ansari.

The all-rounder, who made his Test debut for England in Bangladesh last winter and also played two Tests in India, has announced his retirement from the game at the age of 25.

Ansari, who has a double first from Cambridge University, said he wanted to pursue a career in law and that, having played for England, he now had "other ambitions" to fulfil.

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