The Hundred remains crucial to growing the game of cricket despite its launch being postponed until 2021, says the England and Wales Cricket Board.
The new 100-ball-a-side competition, designed by the ECB to inspire a new generation of fans and attract them to the game, was due to begin on July 17.
But following a board meeting on Wednesday, the game’s governing body has confirmed the tournament will now not begin until the summer of 2021 due to the wide-ranging impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
With all professional cricket in England and Wales postponed until July 1 at the earliest and the operational challenges posed by social distancing when that suspension is lifted, the ECB concluded a delay was the right call.
The Hundred aims to showcase world-class players to a new audience – goals that appear unobtainable due to the impact of global travel restrictions and the possibility any cricket this summer might have to be played behind closed doors.
However, ECB chief executive officer Tom Harrison says The Hundred remains a key part of the cricket’s long-term strategy.
“Whilst we are naturally disappointed that we won’t get to realise our ambitions this year, The Hundred will go ahead in 2021 when we are safely able to deliver everything we intended to grow the game,” he said.
“As we emerge from the fallout of COVID-19, there will be an even greater need for The Hundred.
“Our survival as a game, long term, will be dependent on our ability to recover financially and continue our ambition to build on cricket’s growing fan base. That need has not gone away and, if anything, it is now more critical.”
‘An important element of the game’s strategy’
At the end of March, the ECB announced a funding package worth £61m to help elite and grassroots cricket through the coronavirus pandemic – £40m of which was made available immediately, including three months’ worth of payments released early to help counties. It subsequently published two new funding schemes to help grassroots cricket clubs and leagues get through the COVID-19 crisis.
A number of clubs including Yorkshire, Somerset and Middlesex have since furloughed a proportion of their staff, with the White Rose county cancelling the contracts overseas players – Keshav Maharaj, Ravichandran Ashwin and Nicholas Pooran – all of whom were due to play for Yorkshire during parts of the 2020 season.
Harrison said the introduction of The Hundred next year will help to ease cricket’s financial pressures in the future.
“The Hundred will create millions in revenues for the game, through hosting fees, hospitality and ticket sales, as well as delivering £25m in annual financial distributions to all First Class Counties and the MCC,” he insisted.
“Its role in driving participation alongside supporting the development of the women’s game will be material in generating take-up of our game across country-wide communities.
“The Hundred is an important element of the game’s Inspiring Generations strategy, which has been debated and agreed upon across the whole game.
“While financially, our plans may be impacted, our ambition ‘to inspire a generation’ should in no way be diluted.”
The ECB’s goal of driving participation continues to have the firm backing of broadcast partners Sky and BBC.
Sky Sports Managing Director Rob Webster said: “Sky has enjoyed a successful, long-term relationship with English cricket and we fully support our partners the ECB in its decision to launch the Hundred in 2021 and we look forward to making that a huge success.
“We’ve seen some very good times together and now we stand side by side in difficult circumstances, both determined to come out on the other side with the long-term health of the game intact.”