Revolutionary plans unveiled

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The Independent Online
Cricket would take on a football profile if the revolutionary proposals of the Test Match Grounds Working Party were to find a way into the English game.

Promotion and relegation, a transfer system and even play-offs are part of the adventurous scheme set out yesterday by the chairman, Tony Cross, and his team of six.

The self-appointed group have produced their paper with a design of shaking England's Test team out of its present decline. Their 25-page submission is to be heard at the Test and County Cricket Board's meeting next Wednesday.

The paper calls for the appointment of a Director of English Cricket to select all teams at every level, plus the appointment of coaches and observers, even though they "applaud" the involvement of Ray Illingworth as being totally responsible for the performance of the England side.

But it hits out at the previous England system for its "cumbersome structure without clear accountability".

And the report details statistical evidence that England's percentage loss record is the worst in world cricket. A league table shows that England are currently bottom at 41.66 per cent, behind Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Zimbabwe between 1986 and last February, while they are sixth in the winning list.

"England's performance remains seriously in the doldrums, is inconsistent and well below most of our international competitors," the report stresses. It also attacks the County Championship, insisting that the present set- up tends to "perpetuate mediocrity".

Cross's team includes the former England batsman, Dennis Amiss, the Surrey secretary, Glyn Woodman, the Lancashire chief executive, John Bower, his Yorkshire opposite number, Chris Hassell, and Nottinghamshire's marketing manager, Mark Arthur.

The report calls for an increase in one-day internationals to five or six in a tour season and makes out a case for a divisional system in the Championship with four divisions.

They would be made up of 18 first-class counties in two divisions, with the other two tables - 10 teams apiece - made up of minor counties. The final placings would be decided by a series of play-offs in the 1996 season, with promotion and relegation effective after that, although no minor county would gain promotion in the first five years.

They call for a divisional Sunday League, plus an expanded NatWest Trophy as cricket's "FA Cup". And players should be allowed "freer movement," the report stressing that will eventually be the case for out-of-contract cricketers.

The paper adds: "Current test cases by footballers through the European Courts may well deem the current registration conditions unenforceable in any event.

"In an atmosphere of increased competitiveness, there is no reason why the movement of players out of contract should not take place.

"Should movement of players within contract take place, clubs should be compensated, probably by buying out the balance of the contract.

Amiss, now the Warwickshire chief executive, said: "We are at the crossroads in the game of cricket and we're looking to improve overall standards. England's performances have been pretty low.

"We have got a lot of quality players but not enough to select from. It's worth discussion, there are a lot of influential people in the game who are in favour of the counties being split into two divisions."

The financial outlook would gear grants as follows: First Division: pounds 800,000, Second Division: pounds 750,000, Third Division: pounds 100,000 and Fourth Division: pounds 75,000.

The game in this country is run by a multiple of committees and boards, but the overall objective of the TCCB is for an English Cricket Board to be elected by 1 December.

The Test Match Grounds Working Party believe that the ECB should be made up of 39 representative units, giving a complete regional representation.

Change comes slow in cricket, and the list of proposals is likely to be seen as too far reaching at present, but Bower stressed: "We are a forward-looking body. These proposals can only be for the good of cricket."