Venue plan scaled back for The Hundred Women’s

Organisers of The Hundred Women’s competition have announced that the venue scheme for the debut cricket tournament will be brought in-line with the men’s edition after a plan to utilise 20 grounds across England and Wales was deemed too ambitious during COVID-19.

The announcement means the women’s edition of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB’s) flagship new tournament, which has already been postponed from its initial launch plan this summer, will now take place at eight of the leading stadia in the two countries.

The venues for the men’s event in 2020 were due to be: Lord’s, the Kia Oval, Emirates Old Trafford, Emerald Headingley, Sophia Gardens, the Ageas Bowl, Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.

Organisers said that while the model will be reviewed after 2021, the impact of COVID-19 has necessitated adaptation. The change means double-headers and increased alignment between the men’s and women’s teams, along with what is hoped to be more visibility for the women’s competition through more comprehensive broadcast coverage.

Beth Barrett-Wild, head of The Hundred Women’s, said: “It has always been our intention to review the structure of the women’s competition on an annual basis, to ensure that we are maximising the scale and prominence that The Hundred platform provides to profile the women’s game.

“Looking ahead to 2021, it’s clear that the wide-ranging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the delivery of elite sporting events and society more generally, necessitates a change to our plans from 2020.

“The move to an integrated eight-venue model with the men’s competition next summer will simultaneously enable us to reduce our operational risk, protect the delivery of the women’s competition, and optimise the opportunity to work with our broadcast partners to provide maximum visibility and exposure for the women’s game.

“We therefore believe that this is the best structure for the women’s competition in 2021. However, with the women’s game transforming and growing at pace, it is important that we remain flexible in our approach to evolving this model in the future.”

The ECB in April confirmed that The Hundred will debut in the summer of 2021 and not this year as originally planned. The ECB board decided that it was not possible for the competition to be staged this year due to the ongoing uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

The ECB noted that the significant furloughing of staff across the network of 20 venues would make it “incredibly challenging” to put on a new event without a tried and tested delivery plan. The ECB also cited operational challenges caused by social distancing and ongoing global travel restrictions as reasons for the postponement, adding that a behind-closed-doors event would contradict The Hundred’s aim to attract a broader audience and create a unique event experience.

The Hundred will operate under an innovative 100-ball format and had been due to get underway in July with eight city-based teams from across England and Wales.