Up to 24 domestic women’s cricketers will be paid a regional retainer by the England and Wales Cricket Board from the start of next month to support them financially during the coronavirus pandemic.
The ECB had planned to introduce 40 professional contracts this summer across eight regional hubs as part of its two-year action plan to transform women’s cricket but this has been delayed because of the public health crisis.
A retainer system will come into being on June 1, with the eight regions tasked with choosing players, who will follow a strength and conditioning routine as well as educational courses such as anti-doping and anti-corruption.
Clare Connor, the ECB’s managing director of women’s cricket, said: “As the effects of Covid-19 on the rest of the summer and beyond become more apparent, we will continue to support our players to the best of our ability.
“We promise them that our drive for a more gender-balanced sport remains vitally important.
“The momentum behind the women’s game has been staggering in the last few years and it is still firmly our ambition to build on that.
“As we emerge from this pandemic, we believe even more strongly that cricket will be a sport that throws its arms around everyone – truly inclusive, diverse and a sport for modern Britain to be proud of.”
The decision to postpone the inaugural edition of The Hundred by 12 months to 2021 was a blow to the domestic women’s game.
Connor added: “This was due to be the most exciting year in the game’s history for our leading domestic players. A number of them would have been hoping to sign a full-time contract with one of our eight regions this summer.
“While we still intend to award those full-time contracts in 2020, we want to try to support our players as much as we can until that point, hence the introduction of these retainers to provide an interim solution.”