ECB chief executive Tom Harrison believes The Hundred will be “even more important” as the game deals with the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Whether the inaugural edition of the much-debated 100-ball domestic competition will be held in 2020 seems uncertain, with the ECB board to discuss the tournament’s immediate future next Wednesday before making a final decision.
With no cricket to be played in England and Wales before at least July 1, Harrison has admitted that “this will be a very significant financial problem for cricket”, but believes that the ECB’s new competition will be key in “keeping the lights on” when it does launch.
“If anything this crisis and the implications long-term or medium-term are such that the case for The Hundred is even more important,” Harrison said. “The Hundred is a profit centre for the game of cricket in this country, it will generate commercial value for the game, and help us achieve the second of our three priorities, which is keeping the lights on through the network – making sure county cricket is really healthy and strong long, long into the future. 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. The competition goes up.”
Harrison pointed to ticket sales as evidence for his proclamations, claiming that the ECB had sold 180,000 tickets for the tournament in its sales window earlier this year. His claim regarding the tournament being a “profit centre” comes despite reports that the ECB is not currently projecting financial profit in the competition’s first five years.
“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 continue get behind,” Harrison added. “We were starting from a position of huge strength, post the ticket sales window – 180,000 tickets were sold, the quickest sale of any other cricket other than World Cup cricket – we’ve got to put the context of the last couple of years into a very different light when you see the excitement that was being generated around the start of The Hundred.
“The first-class counties, they understand the importance of this competition to the future of the game and how it will help us achieve stability for everything the game has cared about for hundreds of years. That’s super important to us.”