Charlotte Edwards Cup needs title sponsor urges Lancashire chief executive

Suryakumar Yadav gets the ramp going in the nets
Charlotte Edwards Cup needs title sponsor urges Lancashire chief executive

Daniel Gidney, Lancashire’s chief executive, has called on the ECB to find a title sponsor and a standalone broadcast deal for the Charlotte Edwards Cup after his club’s investment in women’s cricket was rewarded with the award of Tier 1 status from 2025 in the revamped domestic structure.

Lancashire have been major investors in Thunder in England’s regional competitions since 2020, with help from two sponsors in Hilton and Sportsbreaks.com. They will have a full-time squad of 15 professionals this year and travelled to Dubai and Bangalore last month, their third successive pre-season tour.

They were among the counties pushing for a change in the domestic structure which would empower them to invest more in their women’s team and Gidney said that he was “absolutely thrilled” that Lancashire will host a Tier 1 side from next season. “I’ve always believed that if you are going to do this, you have to do it properly,” he told ESPNcricinfo.

To that end, Gidney believes the ECB must find a title sponsor for the Charlotte Edwards Cup – the regional T20 competition – and invest more in marketing games outside of the Hundred. The ECB have committed to investing around £19 million in women’s domestic cricket by 2027.

“There is a lot of history of men’s sports sponsors wanting women’s competitions as an add-on,” Gidney said. “We’re now at a stage where the Charlotte Edwards Cup needs to be backed, it needs to have England players available, and it needs to be taken seriously. There were more people at our quarter-final at Blackpool last year than at Finals Day at New Road.”

The Charlotte Edwards Cup falls under Sky Sports’ TV rights deal with English cricket, which runs from 2024-28, but the channel has rarely broadcast matches from the competition, which are instead largely available via free online live streams. Richard Gould, the ECB’s chief executive, said any changes will only be considered before the next rights cycle, which will start in 2029.

“If we deliver on what we aim to deliver, that is a natural consequence of what we aim to do,” he said on Thursday at the launch of the ECB’s national tape-ball competition. “At the moment, we fall back on streaming platforms for much of our professional domestic cricket at county level and we’ll be doing the same for the women, but ultimately, that’s what we want to do.”

While the three men’s county competitions all have headline sponsors, the women’s regional equivalents do not. Gould would not be drawn on sponsorship, saying: “I would not want to go into that at this point.” Gidney said: “This competition needs a title sponsor that is paying proper money, and we need to get it broadcast.

“We shouldn’t just be giving assets away to people: it’s insulting to all of the women’s professional cricketers we have in the UK now. This is a proper sport that has real value. The top [level] of women’s elite sport in English cricket is the Hundred, but that’s not the only domestic professional cricket in town.”

Gidney believes the move away from a regional structure funded predominantly by the ECB and towards a county model reflects the speed of commercialisation in women’s sport. “At the time the regional structure was introduced, it was all about accelerating performance, development of skills and professionalism,” he said.

“But people underestimated the speed at which elite women’s professional sport has become commercialised: look at the amazing successes of the Lionesses, the Red Roses, sell-out games for Arsenal’s women at the Emirates Stadium, the Women’s Premier League. The money that has come in and the level of engagement from a new fanbase has been mad.

“Deloitte put out a report to say that they believe in 2024, women’s elite sport will become a billion-dollar industry… you have to encourage innovation and generate commercial income to help grow women’s elite sport. We’re thrilled to be a successful Tier 1 club, but that comes with massive responsibility. I can’t now use it as an excuse that the ECB are holding me back.”

Gidney believes that the tender process for Tier 1 teams has demonstrated which counties are “serious” about investing in women’s cricket. “I sat in one meeting and one CEO said, ‘if you get it and we don’t, you’re getting more revenue off the ECB.’ I said, ‘I’m astonished you’ve used the word ‘revenue’ in this context.’ The money that comes from the ECB is just a percentage of what has to be invested into the women’s programme to make it successful.

“A few years ago, there was one non-Test match ground county that took a lot of money from the ECB for its academy. They spent £20,000 on the academy, and the rest on a Kolpak fast bowler. Authenticity is important. If you’re serious, you have to put your money and your actions where your mouth is, and I’d challenge anybody to say that Lancashire hasn’t done that in the last few years.”

Thunder – who have appointed Chris Read, the former England wicketkeeper, as their coach ahead of the upcoming regional season – will play seven fixtures at Old Trafford this year, the most that any regional team will play at a men’s Test venue. The old away dressing room at the ground has already been converted into a home dressing room for the women’s team.

Lancashire are also building a new facility at Farington, near Preston, which will become a training base for their men’s and women’s teams and will stage some first-team matches as well as second-team and pathway fixtures. But Gidney stressed: “Emirates Old Trafford is the home of Lancashire Cricket – for both our men and our women.”

Old Trafford will also stage women’s international cricket again from 2025, more than a decade since its most recent fixture. Gidney wants to host Women’s T20 World Cup matches there in 2026: “We haven’t got a men’s Test match in 2026, so we are very hopeful about that.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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