England cricket chief Tom Harrison says the controversial Hundred has
become "even more important" due to the economic damage from
coronavirus ahead of a meeting that will decide the fate of the new
Last week, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)
further delayed the start of the 2020 season until 1 July at the
earliest but said the inaugural Hundred would be on the agenda this
The new 100-balls-per-side format, to be played by
eight franchises rather than English cricket's established 18
first-class counties, is meant to start in July.
have long insisted it will attract a new audience vital to safeguarding
cricket's future, with some matches set to be broadcast live on
But public health restrictions, the
problems of bringing in overseas stars and the issue of launch costs at a
time of economic crisis mean a delay appears inevitable.
look at how the situation impacts the Hundred, which was envisaged as
being a tournament that enabled us to widen the audience for the game,"
"With an in-stadia environment, with international players, it's going to be very, very difficult."
voices within English cricket have been opposed to the Hundred from the
outset, arguing there is no space for a new format in an already
They say many of the ECB's aims could be achieved with better support for the existing Twenty20 Blast.
But Harrison, one of the key movers behind the competition, said current conditions made it more important than ever.
anything this crisis and the implications, long-term or medium-term,
mean the case for the Hundred is even more important," he said.
I don't think this in any way dilutes the case for the Hundred, it
absolutely accelerates it and makes it something cricket needs to get
Even before the pandemic, the ECB had itself forecast the Hundred would make a loss in its first five seasons.
in the first year, including the £1.3 million paid
to each county, were estimated at £58 million, against an income
of £51 million.
Not playing the Hundred could potentially
save the ECB millions at a time when it has launched a £61 million pounds
virus aid package for the domestic game.
But Harrison is convinced it will make money in the long run - and help preserve the existing county set-up.
will help us achieve one of our priorities, which is keeping the lights
on through the network - making sure county cricket is really healthy
and strong long, long into the future," he said.
"And it will help
broaden the audience for the game. There will be a huge clamour for
audience coming out of this crisis, for all sport."