The Professional Cricketers Association Concerns and Solutions for Domestic Cricket Schedule

The Congested Domestic Cricket Schedule: A Looming Disaster?

The Professional Cricketers Association has sounded the alarm on the congested domestic cricket schedule, warning that it is compromising player performance and could even lead to “disaster” on the roads as exhausted athletes bounce from match to match.

A recent nationwide study conducted by the union at the start of the current season revealed concerning insights. 81% of male players have concerns about the physical strain of the schedule and increased injury risk, while 62% expressed worries about the impact on their mental health. Two-thirds of PCA members believe there is too much domestic cricket, labeling the schedule as “unfit for purpose”.

“If we can make the players safer and the output of the games a higher quality, English cricket is going to be winning full stop.” – Former England captain Joe Root

The squeeze on the T20 Blast appears to be a particular area of concern, with the PCA noting a significant increase in back-to-back fixtures for teams – up from 34 last summer to a projected 55 in 2024. In response, the union is calling for minimum standards regarding rest days, travel, and accommodation to ease the strain of late-night turnarounds.

Balancing the Demands

Daryl Mitchell, the PCA’s chief operating officer, emphasized the need for balance, citing reports of players who have returned home in a near-automated state after matches. “We want to pre-empt it before anything disastrous happens,” he said, expressing concerns about potential player safety incidents on the roads.

The current county cricket schedule, which includes 14 Championship matches, 14 T20 Blast group games, and 8 One Day Cup fixtures per side, represents a slight decrease from the 2010 season. However, the addition of the Hundred tournament has further complicated the landscape, pushing the Blast out of the school holidays and leading to more Thursday and Friday fixtures to boost crowds.

Achieving a meaningful reduction in the domestic schedule will be challenging, particularly after a previous attempt to cut the Championship in 2022 was thwarted by county memberships. The PCA’s expression of angst also comes at a critical time, as the next County Partnership Agreement, including the split of revenues from the upcoming broadcast deal, is being negotiated.

Concurrently, the England and Wales Cricket Board is forging ahead with a plan to privatize teams in the Hundred, a seismic change that could appeal to a county network battling rising costs and collective debt of around £200 million. The proposal would grant the 18 first-class counties and MCC a majority 51% stake in their respective Hundred sides, with the remaining 49% sold by the ECB.

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