Cricket: Colourful outlook for AXA League

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The Independent Online
THE Sunday League will feature coloured clothing, black sightscreens and white balls next season. After yesterday signing a new pounds 2.5m, three-year sponsorship deal with the insurance company, AXA Equity and Law, administrators insisted they were determined to 'move with the times'. England's 18 counties accepted the arrangement at their summer meeting at Lord's.

Alan Smith, the chief executive of the Test and County Cricket Board, said the counties hoped that the new competition would reverse the trend of falling Sunday attendances and that the new format would present extra marketing and commercial possibilities.

Smith said: 'The coloured clothing, with players' names on the back, and the new format of the league will encourage people to come and watch on Sundays - especially families. The new county kits will also generate added income for the game.'

Smith confirmed that fears of rival supporters wearing replica county shirts clashing on match days had been raised 'briefly' in the meeting, but said he felt confident that this would not arise.

He added: 'Fashion changes all the time and in the past cricket clothing has not always been white. Coloured shirts have been worn before in the distant past.

'But the game changes, it moves on. Our game is in good shape but we are still going to move with the times.'

Terry Blake, the TCCB's marketing manager, said negotiations were under way with clothing firms for the contract to produce the 18 individual coloured kits.

The BBC is planning to show several Sunday matches next season and BSkyB is also considering joint coverage now its exclusive deal has ended. Screening of games by ITV regional companies is also possible.

The TCCB also announced that a working party has been set up, under the chairmanship of Doug Insole, to prepare an England bid for the next World Cup. This will be submitted to the International Cricket Council in January.

Glamorgan have planned a 17- day pre-season tour of South Africa next April with one of four one-day games likely against Warwickshire, who will also be touring.

Chris Cowdrey will be released by Glamorgan at the end of the season when his one-year contract expires.

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