The England and Wales Cricket board has reiterated its “unwavering” commitment to start the women’s domestic game this calendar year despite the challenges posed by coronavirus.
While the exact details surrounding the brand new women’s elite competition remain under discussion, the body has a "strong preference" that it gets underway later this summer.
The intended rollout of the new elite women’s domestic structure - the equivalent of the men’s county set-up comprising eight regions made up of grouping counties - may differ from what the ECB originally planned due to the specific challenges associated with the women’s game.
This includes having an adequate number of medical personnel in attendance at matches and following strict health and safety protocols like those in place at biosecure venues where England’s cricketers are training.
Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive officer, said: "Planning for the return of the women’s domestic game remains ongoing, but our commitment to women’s domestic cricket is unwavering and we look forward to sharing further news shortly.
“Our strong preference is that the women’s new elite domestic structure starts this summer and we will work hard to ensure that happens.
“For this to be achieved, brand new infrastructure still needs to be rolled-out, alongside imperatives we need in place when playing competitive cricket during a pandemic.”
It comes as the men’s county cricket season was given the go-ahead to begin on August 1, with the formats to be agreed by the 18 First-Class Counties early next month.
Harrison welcomed the confirmation of a start date for the men’s county season as a “significant step” which was the culmination of “extensive consultations” with the 18-First Class counties and the Professionals Cricketers’ Association.
The ECB’s clear-cut intention to stage some form of domestic women's cricket will offer renewed hope for female domestic cricketers in England, many of whom have been hit hard by the pandemic.
The cancellation of The Hundred in April meant scores of players missed out on a landmark domestic contract, while 40 full-time regional contracts planned for this season were put on hold. The ECB has, however, said it will look to award these this year.
In the event that the body comes good on that promise, the 25 players who were offered regional retainers last week - which was widely viewed as a major step towards the professionalisation of the women’s domestic game - will be upgraded onto one of these.
"Our first choice remains to do everything we can to start this year and build on the fantastic momentum in the women’s game,” Harrison continued.
“In the event that proves impossible, we will explore other options for play to enable our women’s players to enjoy competitive domestic cricket in 2020.
“We will continue to work closely with both the men’s and women’s domestic game to ensure necessary safety measures are in place to protect the wellbeing of everyone involved.”
The ECB is also working on plans to finalise two potential women’s tri-series against South Africa and India in September.