Federal Budget

PCA tell counties to 'practise what they preach' in new women's system

PCA tell counties to 'practise what they preach' in new women's system

Cricket

ECB expected to announce successful bidders later this month

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LONDON (Web Desk) - The Professional Cricketers Association (PCA) have told counties that they must "practise what they preach" after the ECB allocate 'Tier 1' teams in England's revamped women's domestic structure.

The first-class counties - other than Derbyshire and Worcestershire - will learn in the next two weeks whether their bids to host teams in the top tier of the new professional structure have been successful. They were invited to tender bids in February and have been interviewed by the ECB over the past month.

But some players are concerned that counties will not live up to the promises they have made, and registered concerns with the PCA - who are the players' trade union in England and Wales - during their annual pre-season meetings in recent weeks. Daryl Mitchell, the PCA's chief operating officer, said that they will lobby the ECB to ensure successful bidders keep their word.

"Hopefully, we'll see them practise what they preach," Mitchell said. "That's going to be an important part of the next 12 months: actually holding these teams and counties to account. The ECB auditing and policing that is going to be vitally important - and obviously we can play our part in that as well.

"At the moment, sometimes you have three counties running a particular regional side and at times, there's a lack of accountability, a lack of ownership. The new system will have that in abundance moving forwards - which I think is a good thing. Players feel really strongly about having equal access to facilities and coaches, and not feeling like a spare part."

The PCA and the ECB have verbally agreed on a minimum squad size of 15 for the new Tier 1 teams, as well as equalising the minimum wage for female and male cricketers. Those commitments will be formalised in the updated version of the County Partnership Agreement (CPA) which will cover 2025-29.

"At the moment, you've got some female players essentially working two jobs to try and make ends meet," Mitchell said. "It's about us making sure those minimum salaries are at an appropriate level, equal to the men's minimum salaries. That's important to enable players to become professional, and we've had that verbally agreed. That is a really important step.

"The players understand that the game has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. They're certainly excited about having full squads of 15… that's been a challenge in dressing rooms up and down the country, with the have and the have-nots of professional and then pay-as-you-play players. It has been a difficult dynamic.

"Players are really excited about the counties taking ownership. There's definitely a sense that they want the 'one club, two team' mentality that we've seen in the Hundred over the last couple of years. There will be some teething problems, but the overall feeling is that it is going to be positive for the game, and move the women's game forwards."

Those "teething problems" include the prospect of players relocating, and a swathe of new domestic contracts being signed over the course of the summer. "The unknown brings some anxiety," Mitchell said, "but I think getting a base, a long-term contract and a mortgage is something that excites players too - and that ability to plan their life for the next period of time."

Eight counties will be unsuccessful in their bids to host Tier 1 teams, but Mitchell pre-emptively encouraged them not to give up on investing in women's cricket. "The tender process has made counties really think about how they can incorporate the women's game properly within their structures… hopefully, those eight that are unsuccessful become Tier 2 teams and put just as much emphasis on building foundations underneath the top tier."

The Hundred came up repeatedly in the PCA's pre-season meetings with players, and Mitchell is confident that the likely changes in the competition's ownership model - which will see teams opened up to private investment - will benefit female players. "A lot of the discussion in the media has been centred around the men's game, but behind the scene there's a lot about the women's game as well," he said.

"Look at the way the Hundred has been marketed by the ECB: it is very much about an equal platform. I don't think anyone knows exactly what is going to be for sale and how, but there will definitely be some really important caveats around investors investing equally in the men's and women's Hundred… we'll be making sure that whoever is buying into these teams is fully committed to both the men's and women's game."

The final season of the women's regional structure starts next Saturday, with four matches in the opening round of Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy fixtures. Several teams have brought in Australian overseas players, with Katie Mack and Georgia Voll signing for Thunder on Thursday after Northern Diamonds announced the imminent arrival of Erin Burns earlier in the week.