Women’s Professional Game Structure 2.0 – Q&A

Information on the ECB’s announcement of the Women’s Professional Game Structure 2.0.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is today announcing the next stage in the evolution of women’s cricket with the creation of a three-tiered domestic competition structure and a shift in the ownership model underpinning the women’s professional game.

In addition, the ECB has also confirmed that it will invest a further £4m-£5m per year into the women’s professional game from 2025-2028, taking the annual investment in this space to c.£16m.

Below is a series of questions and answers to outline the next steps in more detail.

  1. What will the new structure look like?

The new structure will consist of three tiers: Tier 1 – with eight professional teams, Tier 2 – with 10-14 teams, and Tier 3 – with 16-20 teams.

All teams in Tier 1 will be run by First Class Counties/MCC.  Teams in Tiers 2 and 3 will consist of a mix of First Class Counties and National Counties.

The three-tiered structure will commence in the summer of 2025, Tier 1 Clubs will compete in the domestic 50-over and T20 competitions currently known as the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and the Charlotte Edwards Cup.

It is anticipated that competitions in Tiers 2 and Tiers 3 will also compete in 50-over and T20 cricket. 

For the duration of the 2025-2028 seasons all three tiers will be ‘closed’, with no promotion or relegation.

  1. Who will be the Tier 1 Clubs?

The 18 FCCs and MCC have today received an invitation to tender to become one of the eight women’s Tier 1 Clubs and have until 10 March 2024 to submit a bid.

  1. How will the ECB decide who is successful in the tender process?

The ECB will appoint an Evaluation Panel consisting of members of the ECB Board, members of the ECB Executive team and independent experts. The final composition and named personnel will be confirmed with FCCs/MCC in due course.

We have shared with the FCCs/MCC the Evaluation Criteria which is set against four focus areas: Vision & Mission, Quality Cricket, Passionate Fans and Long-Term Value.

Three of those areas are aligned to objectives defined within the women’s professional game strategic framework for 2025-2028.

The fourth key area focuses on assessing the applicant’s overarching vision for the women’s game, with the intention of evaluating the depth of feeling and ambition each applicant has for becoming a women’s Tier 1 Club.

In addition to the criteria included in the balanced scorecard used for the assessment of individual Bids, the Evaluation Panel will consider the creation of an even distribution of teams according to geographical spread and population density as an overlaying condition when making their final selection decisions.

Bryony Smith runs out at the Oval
  1. What’s the timetable for knowing who has become a Tier 1 Club?

The ECB is anticipating that the identity of Tier 1 Clubs will be announced in April 2024.

  1. What will happen to those clubs unsuccessful in their bids to become a Tier 1 Club?

Following the conclusion of the tender process for Tier 1 Clubs, it is anticipated that FCCs who were not awarded Tier 1 status and, separately, all National Counties will be invited to be involved in a process to determine the composition of Tier 2 and Tier 3 in the new-look women’s domestic competition structure.

It is expected that the outcome of this process will be confirmed by September 2024, ready to launch the evolved women’s domestic structure in full in 2025.

For the duration of the 2025-2028 seasons all three tiers will be ‘closed’, with no promotion or relegation.

One of the driving factors behind the shift in ownership model and expanded competition structure is the requirement for greater depth within the women’s domestic game. 

  1. Does the ECB already know who’s going to host a Tier 1 Club?

No. The Invitation To Tender document is being shared with all 18 First Class Counties and the MCC, and the Evaluation Panel will evaluate the strength of each bid received.

  1. Why is the ECB replacing the women’s Regional Model?

Since 2020, through the advent of the women’s Regional Model, there has been significant progress in the professionalisation of women’s domestic cricket.

The eight women’s Regional teams have accelerated performance standards on the field to create an engine room of fresh talent to go on and excel for England Women – exactly as the Regional Model was designed to do.

The Regional Model has taken women’s domestic cricket to a point where there are 80+ women’s domestic cricketers on an average annual salary of £25k. It has built the foundations from which the women’s professional game can now develop further.

Despite the progression of the Regional Model up to this point, the shift in ownership model and expanded competition structure gives the professional women’s game the ability to move to the next level – especially in off-field areas such as fan engagement and commercial value generation.

  1. What is the level of ECB’s investment?

The ECB is committed to investing a minimum of £1.3m annually into each of the eight women’s teams Tier 1 Clubs throughout the length of the term.

Today’s announcement includes an additional £4-£5m investment, taking the ECB’s annual investment in the women’s domestic game to around £16m.

This will include new investment into the creation of Tier 2 and Tier 3, the details of which will be shared in due course.

Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy Central Sparks batters embrace
  1. How much money does the ECB expect each successful FCC/MCC to invest in their professional women’s teams?

The ECB will not be mandating a minimum financial commitment from FCCs/MCC as part of this award process.

It is however expected that successful applicants will invest directly into their women’s teams over the coming years to maximise the opportunity afforded to them through the granting of Tier 1 status, and to ensure the delivery of best practice.

Through the tender process the ECB will be keen to understand the level of projected investment – in cash and in kind – that FCCs/MCC would be looking to make.

As such, applicants will be asked to outline their budget plans within their bid.

  1. The ICEC recommended equal salaries across men’s and women’s cricket, when do you expect you may see that in domestic cricket?

The ECB agrees with the long-term goal of equality in pay and working conditions (conditions of employment) for male and female players in professional cricket.

One key action stated in the ECB’s response to the ICEC report was to develop a Women’s Professional Game Strategy for 2025-2029 to further grow the women’s game and plot our path to sustainable domestic player pay parity in the future.

The changes we are making will increase the number of domestic professional contracts for women and introduces fresh investment of £4-£5m per year. The shift in governance through these plans also allows the game to align delivery standards for men’s and women’s professional cricket. This means that we can ensure all players are engaged through an approved, standard ECB/PCA contract, and that all standards relating to people and well-being will be applied consistently across male and female players.

These changes are also aimed at growing the demand and audience for women’s cricket, and it is by this that we will create the long-term commercial conditions that can lead to pay parity. They are therefore another important step forward in the journey towards achieving equality in pay and working conditions for male and female players.

  1. What happens to the existing Regional talent pathway?

The ECB will work with the eight Tier 1 Counties to establish their pathway catchment area, alongside defining how Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 Counties will interact to create a cohesive talent pathway with equal access for young female cricketers across England and Wales. Further information will follow.