The Hundred is ‘future-proofing’ English cricket like LIV golf, Warwickshire’s CEO claims

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By Webdesk

English cricket is the envy of other sports because of the Hundred’s success, according to Warwickshire CEO Stuart Cain.

Cain, who joined Warwickshire in 2020, has previously held senior roles in rugby (both league and union), athletics, swimming and football, and believes there is a “harsh economic reality” at the heart of the Hundred – which is divisive seeding competition continues, with the third season dominating the month of August on the England cricket calendar.

Each of the 18 counties is paid £1.3m a year by the ECB under the terms of the original agreement that underpinned the competition. And Cain, who is director of Birmingham Phoenix, said some counties would go under without those funds, underscoring his support for the game.

“60% of the people who come to Edgbaston [for the Hundred] have never been before, and the majority are from the surrounding area,” Cain said. “That tells you we’re getting new people in games, a much more family audience, a much more diverse audience.

“We’ve got new sponsors and we’ve got it on free television. If you were tennis or golf and someone said, ‘I’ve got a game that will bring a whole new audience to your sport,’ bring it to people on free television,” they would say, ‘What’s not to like about it?'”

The future of The Hundred has been discussed throughout the first half of the English summer and while the ECB has stressed that it is locked in until the end of their existing broadcasting deal with Sky Sports, which runs until the end of the 2028 season, a change of format or structure has been suggested.

“You have the history and tradition of 18 counties, and then you have city against city, eight franchises playing,” Cain said. “You’re trying to move the game forward in a modern, contemporary way, but you’re still trying to respect the history of the game, and that’s not always easy to do, is it?

“That’s the challenge for the sport: how do we still maintain the ethos of the Hundred, attract that new audience and bring in new money? Because that money funds the game…every province gets a payment as a result and if you took that payment away from some of those counties, they might fold. That’s the harsh economic reality behind the Hundred.”

A report by Worcestershire chairman Fanos Hira earlier this year questioned the ECB’s accounting practices, claiming that the Hundred has lost around £9 million in its first two seasons.

Cain admitted he wasn’t sure if the tournament made money, but said short-term gains aren’t as important as making the sport “future-proof,” compared to Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund’s controversial investment in sports.

“Whether it makes money or not, I don’t know,” he said. “But you ask the Saudis and LIV [golf] whether that will bring in money for the next five or ten years, or ask Newcastle’s new owners [United] whether they are going to make money in the next five or ten years. They’re trying to build something, aren’t they?

“I think that’s what the ECB is trying to do: build something that future-proofs cricket by attracting new audiences, generating new revenue streams for the counties and encouraging new opportunities for people to watch the sport on free-to-air television I love the principle – and yes, I support it.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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