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Counties agree to changes in domestic season’s structure

The County Championship will revert to a 10-team top division as of 2020, in just one measure agreed by the Men’s Domestic Playing Programme group.

Changes set to come into effect in 2020 will see three teams promoted from Division Two in 2019, while only the county rooted to the bottom of Division One will be relegated.

From then the format will continue as a two-up, two-down competition, with a seeding system to determine a fair fixtures list to be further scrutinised before being endorsed.

Speculation of extending the number of fixtures played from 14 to 16 in a drive to boost revenue will not be enacted, with the red-ball season staying at 14 matches played.

As the T20 Blast continues in its current format, it is the 50-over competition that sees the biggest overhaul to its structure, sliding alongside rival ECB competition The Hundred to be played between July and August.;

With the ECB pushing for The Hundred to extend cricket to a new audience, overseas stars will not be permitted to take part in the One-Day Cup.

Wasim Khan, the Leicestershire chief executive who chaired the Men’s Domestic Playing Programme group, said: “It was critical throughout the process to consider a programme that was underpinned by three key principles: supporting sustained success for England teams, maintaining a vibrant domestic game and recognising the importance of red ball cricket.

“We are very pleased that that there was unanimous support for a structure that will hopefully improve our domestic game and in turn the England teams.”

  • COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP: Each team will continue to play 14 matches. To achieve this, three teams will be promoted from Division Two in 2019 with one relegated from Division One. From 2020, promotion and relegation will revert to two-up, two-down. While not significantly affecting the ‘best v best’ principle in the top division, this change will provide an appropriate increase in security to Division One teams with a smaller percentage being relegated each season, and a correspondingly increased opportunity for Division Two teams as they will have a greater percentage chance of promotion. Due to the asymmetrical nature of 14 matches in a 10-team division a seeding system is being explored to optimise fairness, firstly in Division Two in 2019 followed by Division One from 2020 onwards.
  • 50-OVER COMPETITION: From 2020, the county 50-over competition will be played during the New Competition, in July and August. The counties will be split into two groups of nine – not necessarily along existing North and South lines – and will play each of the other eight counties in their group [four at home and four away] before the top three qualify for the knockout stages. Overseas players will not be permitted to take part in the county 50-over competition.
  • T20 BLAST: The Vitality Blast will retain its current format, with the counties split into North and South Groups of nine teams each, and each team playing 14 fixtures – seven at home, and seven away. The top four will qualify for quarter finals, with the four winners qualifying for Finals Day at Edgbaston.
  • MINOR COUNTIES: From 2020, a new round of 50-over fixtures will be played before the domestic One-Day competition in mid-July, with each First-Class County visiting a Minor County.

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