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Cricket news - ECB announce financial aid following Covid-19 crisis

The ECB have already ruled out any cricket being played until at least May 28.

The ECB have already ruled out any cricket being played until at least May 28.

The ECB chief executive Tom Harrison has labelled the current covid-19 crisis "the biggest challenge the ECB have faced in the history of the game in the modern era" while announcing a financial aid package worth 61 million pounds to help support all levels of cricket in England.

An ECB Board meeting on Tuesday (March 31) approved the package which Harrison said was designed to address the short term issues being felt across both the professional and recreational levels of the game in order to simply "keep the lights on". He did not rule out further measures as the crisis unfolds.

"We are aware the effects will be long standing and they will be very significant on us," Harrison said. "We are trying to work around the clock to understand that impact and take some short term steps to help counties and recreational cubs to get through the immediate impact.

"Right now we are addressing the short term and addressing it aggressively as we feel we can. There will be more pain ahead if we lose a substantial portion of the season. We are building scenarios where we can take further steps as needed. We don't think this will be the end of it."

Any future support will depend on how the season is ultimately affected. Already the ECB have ruled out any cricket being played until at least May 28 and they are working on scenarios for beginning the season in June, July or August as well as modelling out the impacts of a season where no cricket is played at all.

"All scenarios are on the table," Harrison said. "We will have to take a view on what is possible. The scenarios are being debated at length. We will put safety of players and those working in the game at the heart." These options include playing matches behind closed doors in "biosecure environments".

A difficult decision may have to be made about The Hundred. Although Harrison confirmed no decisions had yet been made, he gave a strong indication that existing county competitions, such as the T20 Blast, would be prioritised to serve the game's current, core following.

"You should be careful about your priorities in terms of serving your core audience," he said. "It is at times like this when you go back to what it really important. We are going to have county fans who won't have seen any cricket, players who we don't want sitting around, we want them out playing cricket as soon as we can. All of our decisions are based on those factors."

The initial financial package includes expediated payment of 40 million pounds worth of planned budget distributions to the 18 first-class counties and the county cricket boards. This money was set to be paid out over the course of the 2020/21 budget cycle but will now be paid out immediately to assist clubs with cash flow and revenue issues caused by the current crisis.

The 40 million pounds includes the early release of three months' county partnership distributions to the counties and cricket boards, worth about 20 million pounds, the immediate availability of two years' facilities maintenance distributions - with those funds not having to be spent on facilities - and 5.5 million pounds paid to counties who were not eligible for the facilities maintenance distributions during the 2020/21 cycle.

In addition, the staging fees for international games, paid to the ECB by those counties which host England matches, have been suspended for four months and those payable in 2020 will be waived if the game is not played as scheduled because of Coronavirus.

A condition of the financial package is that all the counties must explore and take advantage of the support for businesses on offer from the government. Harrison confirmed the ECB will also take advantage of government schemes where they are eligible.

The ECB are not seeking pay cuts from England's centrally contracted men's or women's players although Harrison did confirm he will be taking a pay cut himself. A general review of the ECB's cost base is being undertaken to identify any savings that can be made. Proposals will be taken to the Board in the coming days.

Harrison would not be drawn on whether the contractual terms of the five year 1.1 billion pounds broadcast deal with Sky included provisions for this sort of interruption to the schedule and what, if any, impact that might have on the money the ECB receive. Any significant reduction in that revenue would have a potentially severe impact on the ECB's finances and that of the game as a whole.

"The contracts are confidential and they need to remain so," Harrison said. "This comes down to relationships and we have very good ones so we are sitting down and working out how to get through it together. We are taking that approach with broadcasters and commercial partners."

The package announced on Tuesday also contains support for the recreational game to the tune of 20 million pounds. A cricket club support loan scheme will be set up by the ECB, there will be grants through the "Return to Cricket" scheme and a 12 month loan repayment holiday for recreational clubs will be implemented.

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