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Cricket: new Women’s Super League announced

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sarah taylor, women's cricket, fundingAnd prize money for the first time ever in English women’s cricket.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has announced it is to create a new Women’s Super League.

The League, comprising six teams, will initially compete in the T20 form of the game and will begin in the summer of 2016.

And £3million funding committed over four years – an investment which will be used for improving facilities and coaching and promoting the competition.

It will also mean that there will be prize money for the first time ever in domestic English women’s cricket.

The league is the latest in a whole raft of recent developments in women’s cricket in England and Wales.

Last year saw the introduction of central contracts for England’s top 18 women players plus a lucrative sponsorship deal signed with Kia Motors.

Details of the proposed T20 tournament are still sketchy. The ECB seems to be suggesting that it will coordinate how the teams are organised, down to who will be playing for whom.

It is hard not to use the word “franchise”, but it is something the ECB is always takes great pains to do, to avoid any comparison with the IPL or CPL.

Thus, in its press release the ECB says: ‘The next step is for “potential team hosts to make an ‘expression of interest’’ and ‘Any cricket-minded organisations’ should submit a proposal.

With only six teams competing, geographical areas will be hard to represent. We could end up with the ‘Sainsbury’s Tigers’ versus the ‘Adidas Jets’, for example.

In my opinion, one of the first to put a proposal forward could be Loughborough University, who have the England cricket teams training on their doorstep and have the coaching and facilities already in place. Who the others may be we can only imagine.

Some cynics have suggested that the women are to be guinea pigs, with the six-team franchise format paving the way for a similar restructure of the men’s game if the women’s version is a success; the men’s T20 Blast has certainly seen a general decline in both attendance and interest over the last couple of years.

However, the ECB has also suggested that the T20 league is only the start, with a 50-over format league to follow, so perhaps the cynics may be on the wrong track. It is also piggybacking on the developments made by Cricket Australia, whose Women’s Big Bash League starts later this year.

The announcement shows the ECB’s continuing commitment to the women’s game, both at grassroots and elite level, and there is no doubt that the sport is enjoying a big increase in popularity amongst women and girls as a result.

Clare Connor, director of England’s Women’s Cricket at the ECB, said: “The Women’s Cricket Super League is the next stage in the evolution of women’s cricket in this country….

“Competition for places will be strong with the best up against the best, creating opportunities for high potential players, who aspire to play for England, to perform and impress.

“We also have the chance to invite the world’s finest players into the Women’s Cricket Super League to drive ever higher standards.

“Our vision is for an exciting, dynamic game which will inspire new participants, new fans and increased interest from commercial partners and the media.”

With a potentially thrilling Ashes summer just around the corner, it is good to hear plans for domestic cricket are still at the forefront of the governing body’s future thinking.

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