ECB poised to postpone inaugural The Hundred at board meeting

The Hundred’s inaugural season is set to be formally delayed at a board meeting of the England and Wales Board Cricket Board.

The fate of the divisive new competition was discussed at a wider-reaching session last week, when all professional cricket in the country was pushed back to at least July 1 as a result of coronavirus.

That teleconference over-ran significantly and, rather than rush to a final conclusion, it was instead agreed that the issue of The Hundred would be picked up again during Wednesday evening’s meeting.

Top England stars were due to be part of this summer's launch.
Top England stars were due to be part of this summer’s launch (ECB handout)

There has been a growing consensus that the latter is not only the most realistic course of action, but one that offers the greatest chance of a successful launch, albeit a belated one.

With behind-closed-doors cricket inherently at odds with the stated aim of winning new fans and bringing them into grounds for the first time and the prospect of overseas stars being either unable or unwilling to travel, there are fears of delivering a watered-down product.

Key broadcast stakeholders – long-time partners Sky as well as the BBC, for whom the tournament represents a return to live free-to-air cricket – have been consulted throughout the last few weeks, while sponsors will also be up to date on any deferral put before the board.

Tom Harrison (right) insists the competition is more important than ever financially.
Tom Harrison (right) insists the competition is more important than ever financially (Yui Mok/PA)

The precise financial details of putting The Hundred on ice are unlikely to be settled at this stage – with the ECB mindful that the full impact of the pandemic has yet to become clear – but players who earned six-figure contracts at the autumn draft are set to be hit in the pocket.

More than 180,000 tickets have been ordered already, another pricey hurdle to clear.

What is clear, at least as far as ECB chief executive Tom Harrison is concerned, is that The Hundred concept will not be cancelled outright. Questioned last week about its viability in a post-lockdown world, he said it was now more important than ever to push ahead and make it a profit-making project.

The board will also hear updates on an internal review into chairman-elect Ian Watmore. There have been newspaper claims that Watmore left his previous job as a non-executive director of the English Football League following allegations of misconduct.

The former Football Association chief executive left his role after a short time in 2018 citing poor health. A three-person panel has been looking into the matter and will update on their findings.

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