The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have announced that they will fund 40 full-time professional domestic contracts for women cricketers.
The commitment is part of a 10-point action plan to transform the women’s game, a priority stated in the ECB’s ‘Inspiring Generations’ strategy for 2020-2024. The board have announced that £20m will be invested into women’s and girls’ cricket over the next two years, with the aim of increasing that investment to £50m over five years.
The 40 full-time professional contracts, which will be introduced from 2020, will be in addition to the existing central contracts awarded to England Women. Twenty-one central contracts were awarded to England Women players for 2019, with 17 players handed full-time contracts and four granted rookie deals.
The contracts will be awarded on a regional basis, with five players benefiting in each area.
The plan also highlights the intention to initiate a new regional domestic structure for women’s cricket. The action plan states that “the current structure does not give women and girls the best opportunity to reach their full potential”.
Other aims include taking cricket to more primary and secondary schools, raising standards of age-group cricket as well as raising the profile of the women’s game through The Hundred, the new 100-ball domestic competition that will begin in 2020.
Clare Connor, the ECB’s managing director of women’s cricket, said: “Cricket has been an integral part of my life, as a player and in my role of managing director of women’s cricket. I have never been more excited by the opportunity in front of us right now.
“Recent initiatives have given women and girls more opportunities to play, such as All Stars Cricket for 5-8-year-olds, the South Asian female activators programme, and the Kia Super League for our most talented domestic cricketers. But to truly transform women’s and girls’ cricket, we must now move from targeted standalone programmes to addressing the whole pathway as one.
“We have an amazing opportunity to make cricket the sport we want it to be – a sport that is modern, innovative and inclusive. I have been so heartened by the level of enthusiasm, commitment and support for this plan from everyone involved in cricket.”
Heather Knight, captain of England’s women’s side, added: “This action plan is a really exciting next step in the continued growth of women’s cricket. We need more young girls to be inspired to play and those young girls need to be able to see a clear pathway above them that encourages them to continue pursuing the game.
“As England players we’re fortunate enough to meet lots of young girls who love the game and it means so much to us to see how much they love cricket. Much of this plan is about normalising the game for women and girls and I’m excited to see how this increased opportunity takes the game forward.”