Sussex chairman plays down big-club breakaway fears

Hove cricket ground Getty Images

Sussex's chairman has insisted that the prospect of the biggest counties launching a breakaway league to replace the Hundred is "completely not to be feared" and is not a realistic outcome from discussions over the tournament's future.

The ECB and the 18 first-class counties (plus MCC) have met regularly in recent weeks to discuss the details of proposed changes to the Hundred's ownership model. There is broad agreement that the eight teams should be opened up to private investment, with 51% of shares being transferred from the ECB to the host county (or MCC) and the other 49% sold, with revenues distributed across the game.

But the counties have not yet agreed on the way those revenues should be shared. The ECB initially asked counties to agree on a general direction of travel by May 10, but the 11 non-host counties are collectively seeking independent advice which could delay the process significantly.

"The non-host county position is that, as in any financial arrangement of this type - and you're talking hundreds of millions of pounds - that we would have our own proper, impartial advice and that's what we're now seeking," Jon Filby, Sussex's chairman, told the BBC's Test Match Special podcast. "We'll get that and then I'm sure a deal will very quickly follow."

The Cricketer published excerpts of a leaked email from Richard Gould, the ECB's chief executive, to counties on Tuesday in which he warns: "Neither current hosts nor current non-hosts are particularly enamoured with the capital structure of the deal… if we lose momentum now then parties will simply be arguing for a larger percentage of a rapidly shrinking pie."

Filby added: "I think it's very important that we're not rushed into it, but equally, I understand that there is a window of opportunity to get a clear position on this by the time that the Hundred comes around towards the end of this season, and that can then be a shop window for that competition. I get all of that, and I'm sure we're on track for that."

The prospect of a breakaway by the Hundred-hosting counties has reportedly been raised, with the existing framework agreement expiring at the end of the year. Sean Jarvis, the Leicestershire chief executive, told ESPNcricinfo last week that English cricket was facing "our Premier League moment" and said that "it's the top six or seven clubs that call the tune".

But Filby said that the non-hosting counties should hold firm. "I think a breakaway's completely not to be feared," he said. "I don't think it'll happen. Who do the teams think they'd play against, and who do they think would play for them? I don't think it'll happen, no."