ECB plans to introduce bans for bad behaviour

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The England and Wales Cricket Board has announced new disciplinary measures which will see badly behaved players automatically banned from Frizzell County Championship games.

Any registered county player who clock up a fixed number of 'demerit points' during any 12-month period will face a suspension. The ECB will also retain the power to enforce stricter punishment according to the circumstances.

Fixed penalties will be issued by umpires reporting a player to the ECB but match officials will not be copying football by issuing yellow or red cards.

Alan Fordham, the ECB's cricket operations manager, said: "While we recognise that on-field behaviour had not seriously declined, this new system is designed to assist umpires and is aimed at being fair and consistent."

Meanwhile, the Essex chief executive David East has issued a warning about the spiralling costs of players' wages, despite the club making a profit last season.

According to figures for the year ending 31 December, Essex – who were relegated from Division One of the county championship – made a profit of £64,312 compared with a loss of £111,589 for the previous 12 months.

This was largely due to a game against the Australian touring team in England last summer and a major restructuring at the club over the last 18 months. However, East was cautious about what the future holds and predicted the county would be back in the red again this season.

"We have great concerns about the future," he admitted. With playing costs escalating to unprecedented levels it is likely that 2002 will once again show a significant deficit.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult to balance the demands for success on the field with the financial reality that all county cricket clubs face at the moment," East added.