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Plan for UK version of Indian Premier League go to vote

By David Clough

Plans for a new city-based Twenty20 tournament will rest on the outcome of a postal ballot after England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves triggered a referendum.

Graves took the much-anticipated step at a Lord's meeting of the executive board yesterday, after it emerged the previous day that all 18 first-class counties and the MCC had signed up to a "media rights deed" which authorises the ECB to include on their behalf the proposal for the eight-team T20 competition in the governing body's portfolio to offer to prospective broadcasters.

The remaining stumbling block, which is expected to be overcome by securing a minimum 31 votes in favour out of 41 over a forthcoming 28-day period, is the requirement for an amendment to the existing ECB constitution to allow - as a one-off measure - a tournament that includes only eight teams rather than all 18 professional clubs.

The executive board agreed to dispatch the literature inviting all stakeholders to agree or otherwise with the change in policy which will pave the way for the ECB to run its own high-profile new tournament in July and August from 2020.

There are indications already, over and above universal signatures on the media rights document, that - after a process of persuasion which has included a £1.3m-a-year share of revenue for each county for the first four editions - there is likely to be broad approval.

That was also the case six months ago when three counties dissented in a 16-3 show-of-hands in favour which gave ECB its initial mandate to press ahead with the eight-team format to the exclusion of other options.

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison confirmed that he was no longer aware of any significant doubts among counties about the tournament set to give the UK its own version of the Indian Premier League and Big Bash.

Kent and Sussex were among the three counties still to be convinced last September.

Both had important business of their own to attend to at annual general meetings last night, when Kent's George Kennedy and Sussex's Jim May each stepped aside at the end of a long tenure as chairman.

Kennedy said: "I think the most important thing we wanted to make sure of was that the financial arrangements were appropriate. The £1.3m for four years is enhanced by a percentage of the revenue post year four, so financially it looks okay."

Some qualms persist, the most obvious addressed by the ECB's reassurance that it will be a one-off measure to sanction a tournament which does not involve every club - or any of them, since the teams for 2020 are expected to be separate entities using established major stadiums.

"It is a pity all 18 clubs are not involved," said Kennedy.

It is known already that the intention is a structure of 36 matches in 38 days in July and August, running concurrent to Test matches and including a draft of 13 players per squad in salary bands and then two more added on the basis of performances in the NatWest Blast.

Other specifics will come to light when broadcast discussions, expected to involve free-to-air television, are advanced.

Belfast Telegraph

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