Lancashire have voiced their support for the ECB’s proposals to introduce private investment in the Hundred from 2025, but pushed back against the idea that teams in the competition might play under the banner of their host counties.
The Hundred’s future has been under review over the last few months, with the ECB discussing a number of potential changes to its governance structure as part of a consultation with the 18 first-class counties and MCC. The most fundamental question is whether or not it should be opened up to private investors.
The tournament will continue for at least five more seasons, since it forms part of the ECB’s broadcast deal with Sky Sports, and its structure will remain unchanged in 2024. But the ECB hope that the counties will reach a consensus in the early months of the English season and that changes can be implemented for 2025.
Lancashire are unique in that they are the only county affiliated with Manchester Originals, who play their home games at Emirates Old Trafford. All Hundred teams are owned by the ECB, but each of the other seven has at least two affiliated counties who are represented on their boards.
Andy Anson, Lancashire’s chair, believes that the county should play a greater role in how the Originals are run. “Since I started as chair of Lancashire three years ago, I’ve felt it is in Lancashire Cricket’s best interest to have greater control of the Manchester Originals team,” he told LancsTV, the club’s in-house channels. “Ideally, with a controlling equity interest.
“This would mean that we can drive the team as a commercial entity and leverage the existing operations here at Emirates Old Trafford. I was also very concerned about the level of central costs at the ECB associated with the Hundred: they were too high, and we believe the operating model was suboptimal.
“As reported, I can confirm that discussions have taken place between all of the first-class counties and the ECB regarding the transfer of a controlling interest in the Hundred teams to the host venues. As a board, we’re supportive of this… overall, we believe [the proposals] are positive for Lancashire and provide us with greater control and financial potential.”
One proposal that has been discussed would involve a two-division Hundred with all 18 counties represented independently, which Anson made clear his opposition to. “We would be very concerned that a two-tier Hundred would prevent Lancashire playing as the Red Rose in the month of August, and this is unacceptable to us,” he said.
“We do support the transfer of a controlling equity stake in the Manchester Originals to Lancashire Cricket. We would not accept any expansion of the window in the schedule allocated to the Hundred, even if the numbers of teams expanded… also, the T20 Blast needs to be an absolute priority for everyone, and should be improved and not undermined in any way by these discussions and decisions.”
Earlier this week, Durham chief executive Tim Bostock said that his county are “100% committed to bringing a franchise here to the north-east” and described the Hundred as a “silver bullet game-changer” for English cricket. “”We are very confident we could attract a lot of interest,” he told PA Media.
He also hinted at the possibility of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) investing in a Hundred team in the north-east. “We’ve seen the Saudis have bought Newcastle United just down the road, and you don’t need to be a brain surgeon to see they are building a portfolio,” Bostock said.
In Lancashire’s case, Anson said that the county’s would be “very happy” to consider investments into Manchester Originals from a third party, and said that any capital injection would be used to pay down the club’s debt or to invest in “the cricket infrastructure of Lancashire.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98