Fears grow within Yorkshire CCC that The Hundred will be put on ice

Yorkshire chief executive Mark Arthur says that he cannot see cricket’s new flagship 100-ball competition taking place this summer.

Thursday, 2nd April 2020, 9:16 am
Updated Thursday, 2nd April 2020, 9:18 am
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Arthur fears that the inaugural edition of The Hundred will be cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis.

The England and Wales Cricket last night announced a £61m emergency plan to help professional and recreational cricket, with all counties to receive a quarter of their annual payment from the ECB’s central distribution pool up front to help with cash flow.

Yorkshire, who will receive around £875,000, also stand to make around £2m from the inaugural Hundred, but Arthur cannot see the tournament – scheduled to run from July 17 to August 16 – going ahead.

“I’m pretty convinced that The Hundred will be a casualty this year,” he said. “It costs money to put on – it’s going to be a loss-leader for the first few years – and we wouldn’t be able to have a proper build-up to have a major impact.

“It was also designed to be in that sweet spot when there wasn’t going to be any football on television, and overseas players were readily available.

“But, as soon as cricket starts, football will be re-starting, rugby as well, so the TV audience wouldn’t be as great as it would have been in the spot that it’s currently got.”

The potential loss of overseas players would effectively render the tournament pointless; ditto any move to play it behind closed doors.

Travel restrictions could clearly be a factor for overseas players, with much of the world in lockdown, while hopes of attracting a new audience to the grounds themselves – as opposed to simply through the medium of television – would be dashed by the present social distancing measures and bans on mass gatherings.

David Warner, the Australia batsman, has already pulled out of The Hundred in a significant blow to ECB organisers, although that is because he wants to take a break with his family and be ready for a one-day series against Zimbabwe in August should it go ahead.

However, potential conflicts of interest involving international cricket and other franchise competitions are possible for a number of top players should The Hundred be delayed, perhaps until August/September, meaning that there is a growing mood within the game that it might be better to launch the whole shebang in 2021.

“When it comes to overseas players, the Indian Premier League might decide to play their competition around the same time when the sport finally resumes, in which case some of the world-class players wouldn’t be available for The Hundred,” said Arthur.

“Therefore, you’d have to say, ‘Well, what is the point of putting on a new competition if you haven’t got the world-class players there?’

“I think, in fairness to the England and Wales Cricket Board, that the priority has to be international cricket (the main money-maker), and the second priority the T20 Blast, which drives much-needed income for the counties.

“After that, it’s going to be a case of whatever time they’ve got left in the cricketing calendar to put in any other cricket that they can.”

With Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, stating this week that life in Britain may not return to normal for at least six months, there must be a strong chance that there will be no cricket played this year in front of a crowd – if at all.

The present social distancing stipulations are expected to be in place for at least two-to-three months, with any lifting of restrictions unlikely to include the type of mass gatherings witnessed in sport.

Although the joke doing the rounds is that the County Championship will be all right in that case as it is traditionally watched by one man and his dog, the reality is that the Championship is especially vulnerable to being scrapped altogether; it simply does not make enough money at a time when the counties’ need for it has never been greater.

Half of each county’s 14-match Championship programme has effectively been wiped out already following the ECB’s announcement that the season will not start until at least May 28, while the 50-over Cup is also set to go for a burton, having already been reduced to a sideshow by being scheduled to run alongside The Hundred.

“Obviously, no-one knows when the season is going to start at the moment,” continued Arthur.

“The ECB is currently looking at various scenarios as to whether we might potentially get going in June, July or August, but there is nothing definite at this stage.

“If we only end up with August and September, for example, then I’m sure it will just be the T20 Blast and international cricket that ends up being played.

“The season could potentially go into October, of course, but everything is up in the air.”

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