The inaugural season of The Hundred is most likely to be postponed next week. Still, England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison thinks the financial impact of coronavirus makes the competition “even more important.”
The ECB board has agreed to postpone all professional cricket in the country till July 1 at the earliest. Still, a decision on the new franchise tournament will not come until an additional session on Wednesday.
There is almost no expectation that it will take place as planned this summer, with a myriad of problems including launch costs, potential unavailability of overseas stars, and the harmful effect of playing behind closed doors combining to hinder the cause.
The Hundred has been a divisive idea from the beginning, and hopes were raised among some of its many critics that any delay could eventually end up being a permanent one. With the format being ditched in favor of a revamped version of the existing T20 tournament, Vitality Blast.
The competition is projected to lose money for up to five years. Still, its supporters believe it can draw a new fanbase and eventually lead to higher engagement and handsome profits.
Harrison, a leading figure in the development and advancement of the 100-ball concept, takes the opposite view, firmly insisting a successful roll-out was now more essential than ever.
“If anything this crisis and the implications – long-term or medium-term – means the case for The Hundred is even more important,” he said.
“So I do not think this in any way dilutes the case for The Hundred, it accelerates it and makes it something cricket needs to get behind. We were starting from a position of strength 180,000 tickets were sold, the quickest sale of cricket besides World Cup Cricket that we have seen.
“The Hundred is a profit center for the game of cricket in this country, and it will generate a really important commercial value for the game.
“It will help us to achieve one of our priorities, which is keeping the lights on through the network– making sure county cricket is strong and healthy long, long into the future And it will assist broaden the audience for the game.
“There will be a huge demand for the audience coming out of this crisis, for all sport. The competition goes up.”
Wednesday’s board meeting could also see the conclusion of an internal review into the ECB’s chairman-elect Ian Watmore.