Players demand to have their say over reforms to Championship fixture list

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The Independent Online

Players want a part in deciding sweeping changes to domestic cricket. If this does not sound a revolutionary request, considering the hotchpotch of fixtures imposed by the administrators that passes as the structure for the present season, it demonstrates that they feel their voice has gone largely unheard.

With an upheaval to the County Championship impending, the Professional Cricketers' Association last night called for the whole programme to be scrutinised rather than only part of it. In a paper published after a survey of 300 players, it asked for the process initiated by the England and Wales Cricket Board to be stopped now and resumed as "a new, broader consultation including all key stakeholders."

At present the counties appear to be considering altering the Championship in isolation and have five recommendations before them, none of which appears to make much sense. Before it goes any further, the players want their views heard, not least because the 2010 season is already proving a strain.

"It is not intended to instigate the changes until the 2012 season so there is time to do it properly," said Angus Porter, the recently appointed chief executive of the PCA. "We want consideration to be given to the possible reduction of one-day fixtures, not only the Championship."

The ECB appears determined to reduce the number of four-day matches from 16 to 12 or 14 to lessen players' workload and shorten the season while allowing more T20 cricket. A system of splitting the 18 counties into three conference-style divisions with play-offs was the original proposal. But this has been joined by four others of varying complexity including a premier division of eight with two others of five each, three divisions of six with matches played over five days, two divisions of nine playing only 12 matches, and three divisions of seven arrived at by adding three minor counties.

These have all been criticised and the results of the PCA survey should ensure none bears fruit. In its discussion document the PCA has made its own proposal for a revised Championship, which allows for three divisions of six with promotion and relegation. But most of their members appear to think there is little wrong with the present format.

But the PCA also wants to ensure that future seasons mean that the domestic Twenty20 champions can take part in the lucrative Champions League in India – which is not happening this season. Players are clearly concerned that the expansion of the T20 competition will affect quality and may not necessarily mean more income. Some teams are playing three home T20 matches in a week this summer.

Porter said: "Just because you cram more on to the shelf does not mean people will buy it."

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