Blow for ECB as counties reject league proposals

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The Independent Online

English cricket's most powerful committee, The First Class Forum, yesterday kicked out proposals for a combined four-day and one-day domestic competition and decided to form a review group of its own. The Interim Review Group, whose objective is to look at the future structure of first-class cricket, will be headed by the FCF chairman, Mike Soper, and will contain a larger representation from the counties - four or five county chairmen or chief executives - than the Domestic Structure Review Group, whose proposals have been thrown out.

English cricket's most powerful committee, The First Class Forum, yesterday kicked out proposals for a combined four-day and one-day domestic competition and decided to form a review group of its own. The Interim Review Group, whose objective is to look at the future structure of first-class cricket, will be headed by the FCF chairman, Mike Soper, and will contain a larger representation from the counties - four or five county chairmen or chief executives - than the Domestic Structure Review Group, whose proposals have been thrown out.

As well as reviewing the structure of first-class cricket the group will look into the development of Twenty20 cricket, the format of the National League, the extension of floodlit cricket and the number of teams promoted and relegated each season. The recommendations of the group, if authorised will come into effect in the 2006 season.

This decision will come as a major blow to the England and Wales Cricket Board who was hoping its recommendations would be adopted by the FCF, a committee which incorporates the 18 first-class counties and the Marylebone Cricket Club. But in recent times the counties have become discontent with the direction in which the ECB has been steering the game. They feel they have been ostracised and this decision will let the ECB know who is in charge.

At the same meeting in Loughborough, the FCF also allowed counties to continue employing two overseas players in 2005. There are many who feel there should be only one overseas player at each county and the 11-5 vote, with three absentees - which is very worrying - seems to be another example of the counties putting their own well-being ahead of that of the national team.

It is feared that these expensive overseas players, and the ever-increasing number of cricketers who can play here on European passports, even though they are not eligible for England, will eventually start to have a detrimental effect on the performance of the national side.

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