England cricket: Summer schedule ‘saved us from financial oblivion’, says ECB chief executive

England men's cricket team after a series win over West Indies in 2020
England’s men hosted Ireland, West Indies, Pakistan and Australia over the summer

English cricket has been saved from “financial oblivion” by playing behind closed doors, says England and Wales Cricket Board chief Tom Harrison.

England’s men and women enjoyed successful summers on the field, despite the coronavirus pandemic, while a modified county season reached a conclusion when Notts Outlaws won the T20 Blast on Sunday.

“There is some pride at what has been achieved this year but there is also concern for the future,” chief executive Harrison said.

England’s men won Test series against West Indies and Pakistan, while also hosting Ireland and Australia for white-ball only tours, with the women’s side thrashing West Indies 5-0 in a T20 series.

All international series were played in bio-secure bubbles and ensured the governing body could still earn money from broadcasting revenue.

“Being able to deliver on those broadcast commitments has frankly saved us from financial oblivion, and obviously not just us but the rest of the game too. It’s as stark as that,” said Harrison.

However, the organisation says it has still lost more than £100m, and last month it announced it would be cutting 62 jobs due to the impact of Covid-19.

“The ECB has lost more than £100m of revenue and 800 days of live spectators in stadia,” Harrison added.

“The consequences of that are now being felt by people across the game who are losing livelihoods and are going through some very, very difficult moments in their lives.

“Right now at the ECB we are going through the painful process of becoming a smaller organisation coming out of this summer.”

There had been fears England’s women would not play any cricket after South Africa withdrew from their scheduled tour over travel restrictions.

However, a T20 series against West Indies was played in September, with a dominant England winning every match.

The series also saw the first live women’s game on BBC Sport since 1993, simulcast live on Sky, which saw a peak audience of 1m and a total reach of 2m across both networks.

“I don’t think we have lost a great deal of momentum this year,” England women’s managing director Clare Connor said.

“We need to continue to show that our commitment to investing in the game for women and girls remains undiminished, despite the financial challenges ahead.”

The ECB hoped to launch The Hundred, a new 100-ball tournament for men and women, in 2020 but that has been postponed for 12 months.

The 18 first-class counties played in a new four-day competition – the Bob Willis Trophy – and they have been assured by the ECB they will receive “100% of their funding” for next season.

England women's captain Heather Knight
Captain Heather Knight led England’s women to a 5-0 T20 series win over West Indies in September

BBC News