ECB men’s High Performance Review Update

Around 300 Warwickshire Members met with representatives from the Club and the Member’s Committee on Tuesday 13 September to discuss ideas emerging from the ECB’s men’s High Performance Review.

Stuart Cain, Chief Executive, presented an overview of the issues that the game faces, the ideas being put forward through the Strauss review and how the game will decide on what recommendations to adopt.

There was then an open Q&A, involving Chair Mark McCafferty and Director of Cricket Paul Farbrace, where Members put forward their views and asked questions.

The full Members’ Forum can be viewed below.

Why the review was set up and next steps

Stuart Cain started by reminding Members of why the review was set up and the process being followed to ensure that Members’ voices were heard:

  • Due to England’s Test performance since 1982, the ECB has developed a series of ideas based purely on a ‘High Performance’ perspective – having worked with experts from the world of sporting performance.
  • The ECB’s next step is to discuss these more widely to get a more balanced view looking at the interests of Members, County players and Club officials – from there a more rounded set of recommendations will emerge (likely 20 September).
  • The Chairs have been clear: Counties must be given the time to consult with Members, their own players, coaches and staff before a meaningful discussion can be had.  This means the schedule will not change in 2023.
  • This will extend throughout September and October, so coming weeks are about about discussing ideas and a second Member’s Forum will be set up for an evening in mid-October to establish the principles which will be put to the Members’ Committee and Board for agreement (as per the Club’s constitution).
  • The Board will then mandate the Chair to vote in accordance with the views of the Members, Members’ Committee and Board in any future ECB vote to decide the shape of the domestic schedule from 2024.

He outlined in detail some of the performance issues behind England’s Test performance since 1982 including lack of overseas experience, technical skills and the gap between domestic and international cricket.  Much of the information presented was included in Sir Andrew Strauss’ recent blog.

Linked to this is the need to create a thriving domestic County network that gives people the chance to watch exciting County Championship cricket that feeds the international team.

With this in mind, Cain discussed some of the wider considerations including:

  • Revenue from Vitality Blast and The Hundred is crucial, as red-ball domestic cricket is not financially viable. Only by getting a healthy balance between the two, can the County Championship be sustained. With energy bills trebling, there is also extra financial pressure on Counties.
  • Sky accounts for 70% of cricket’s income, and their insistence that The Hundred is played in August means that this isn’t up for discussion in the review.
  • The ECB wants to maintain the eighteen County system, so this isn’t up for review. However, the disparity between Counties has to be addressed.  Some venues playing international and Hundred cricket almost have too much cricket, others not enough.  The size of venues and the needs of Members also means that different Counties have different demands.
  • Players do feel they play too much cricket and don’t have the time to train, prepare and travel between games. However, there are nuances. An international player, picked for the Hundred and also playing franchise cricket is active all year round and looking for space in the calendar. A player only appearing for their County has large gaps where they are not playing competitive cricket.


Strauss recommendations

Cain then discussed the four key areas of Strauss’ review:

  1. Creating a performance culture within the game: aligning everyone’s goals behind the need to create a successful men’s England team by understanding what it takes to win, then communicating this.
  2. Developing the skills to win: giving players the technical skills needed to win, and also the opportunities to play overseas in order to get used to the conditions.
  3. Promoting Team England: creating a shop window that makes players want to play for their country and develop the physical and mental resilience needed to succeed.
  4. Developing a domestic cricket schedule that bridged the gap between County Championship and Test cricket by ensuring ‘best v best’ with ‘quality over quantity’ as key principles.


Potential impact on the domestic schedule

Cain stressed that, at this stage, the ideas being discussed are just that – they are not a final recommendation or ‘take it or leave it’ ultimatum from the ECB.  They are initial thoughts based purely on high performance that now need to be discussed with Counties and Members to ensure their views are also taken in to account.

One-Day Cup

Ideas up for discussion:

  • Move the One-Day Cup to April, creating a ‘best v best’ white ball tournament.
  • This would be a number of group games (3 to 5) followed by knock-out games.

Members’ Committee views:

  • Does this help win 50-over international games?
  • Is it better than what we’ve currently got?
  • Less impact due to weather?
  • If we lost it, would it allow the other tournaments to breathe?

Vitality Blast

Ideas up for discussion:

  • Play the Vitality Blast in a block from late May to July, with more games on a Friday/Saturday/Sunday – to do this would mean a group phase of 10 games (5 home/5 away).  There wouldn’t be any County Championship cricket played alongside the Vitality Blast.
  • Alternatively, if Counties wanted to retain 14 group games, and try to get more Friday/Saturday/Sunday fixtures, the group phase would be played from May to July, alongside County Championship cricket, with the Quarter-Final and Final in September.
  • Changing the North/South conference model was also discussed, so different teams could play each other in the group phase.

Members’ Committee views:

  • What’s the commercial impact of losing one or two games?
  • Is it too far too soon?  What about a 12 game season?
  • If there isn’t any County Championship cricket alongside, leaves some players with no meaningful cricket for a six week block.
  • Playing more ‘big games at big moments’ feels like the right way to go.
  • Could this be a mix of local derbies and high performance matches?
  • Linking with the Hundred makes sense.
  • This is still the global format: it can’t be left behind by The Hundred.
  • Playing in a block creates a story – start to finish without a break.

LV= Insurance County Championship

Ideas up for discussion:

  • To ensure the best players competed against each other on a regular basis, the County Championship could become three leagues of six teams.  Each playing a minimum of ten games.  Two conference leagues beneath a top division would mean that teams in the second tier would have play-offs to be promoted, with one team relegated from the top division.
  • When this would be played depended on which Vitality Blast option was chosen, but County Championship cricket could still be played across April, May, June, July and September.

Members’ Committee views:

  • A reduction to 10 games in 2024 is not acceptable – if it has to change, how about 12 and then a review to assess impact?
  • This would impact on the ‘six team’ format – but does this have to be detrimental to high performance?
  • Why not play County Championship in August?  Counties lose players to England, so is losing them to Hundred any different?
  • Could top two teams play for Bob Willis Trophy if go for conference style leagues to increase volume of games?
  • If you lost the One-Day Cup (the lesser of a number of evils) could you start the County Championship in late April?
  • This, plus playing alongside The Hundred, could maintain volume of matches and increase number played in high summer without playing early April/late September.

Festival cricket in August

Ideas up for discussion:

  • Red-ball cricket could be played in August, but with concerns about competition integrity if it was County Championship fixtures, this could be festival cricket with first-class status – eg. Warwickshire v Worcestershire in a three-game tournament at out-grounds or New Road.

Members’ Committee views:

  • This has to be meaningful cricket – not just friendlies.
  • Would prefer County sides, not regional.
  • Should consider playing the County Championship in August.
  • If you could address the need for meaningfulness, playing red-ball games at out-grounds, such as Stratford-Upon-Avon or Leamington – and building a festival to rival Scarborough – could be interesting.


The views of Members

It was clear that the views of the Members’ Committee reflected those of the wider Membership, with a number of additional thoughts coming from the floor:

  • Problems around the schedule are caused by The Hundred, with some recognising its role in financing the game but others wanting to see it abandoned.
  • With red-ball cricket in April and September, the ‘value for money’ of Membership was being eroded, especially with limited cricket in August.
  • Could cricket follow horse racing, and give Members free access to County Championship cricket at all grounds?
  • Playing The Hundred and the One-Day Cup at the same time doesn’t work as it’s not developing the red-ball game – the County Championship could exist under The Hundred if only a small number of red ball players play in the competition. Others felt that it was right to play the Royal London Cup alongside The Hundred as it allowed younger players to break through and get experience.
  • If the County Championship was played alongside The Hundred, could the number of County players picked for The Hundred be capped? Could those not playing be returned to County teams?
  • There needed to be more County Championship cricket on Saturdays and Sundays so that people working could attend.
  • A number of questions were raised around the assumption that going to 10 County Championship games would improve quality. Paul Farbrace tried to address this, saying that 10 County Championship games would allow players and staff to be more prepared for each game and would also allow for better pitches and improve home advantage.
  • Would a move to three-day County Championship cricket help maintain a 14 game schedule?

Cain closed the meeting by thanking Members for their contribution to the debate and ensuring them that their views would be heard, with another opportunity to discuss at the Members’ Forum to be set up in October.

He also thanked the Members’ Committee for attending the Forum and talked through a number of coming measures to improve the profile and connectivity of the Members’ Committee within the Membership.

If you have any suggestions, thoughts or questions about the ECB men’s High Performance Review, please email