This article originally appeared in Future Sport magazine. Click here to read the 2020 edition.

The summer of 2019 will go down as the greatest in England’s long and illustrious cricket history following the unforgettable super over World Cup win against New Zealand. An enthralling Ashes series came quickly afterwards, highlighting the rude health the game currently finds itself in. However, 2020 has the potential to be just as eventful with The Hundred competition officially set to launch. Already making headlines following its unique draft-style selection policy, it’s hoped the new format will attract a whole new audience to the game. Here, Future Sport looks at The Hundred, its finances and what it means for the future of cricket…

A warehouse in East London was where cricket’s latest incarnation was announced to the world. Home to the capital’s “hipster” population, the brash launch event laid on by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) certainly tested the boundaries of what is considered cool around Dalston and Shoreditch.

In garish new kits paraded by international stars, eight brand new teams birthed to compete in The Hundred were revealed to a level of fanfare that would be considered only slightly above average. Perhaps the launch coming just weeks after England’s incredible World Cup success, and days after a compelling Ashes series, meant it was always going to be overshadowed, but make no mistake – this is the competition the ECB are banking on competing with the likes of the Indian Premier League and Australia’s Big Bash League.

If T20 broke the norm of what we consider to be cricket in 2003, then The Hundred has shattered it. Using five ball overs and combined county teams, it has invited derision and excitement in equal measure. Importantly, it’s estimated that the governing body is throwing £200m at the project.

The ECB have been accused in the past of failing to capitalise on the invention of T20 while their Indian and Australian counterparts have driven off into the sunset with pockets full of cash. Ian Tomlinson, UCFB finance academic, remains unconvinced by the new format and the lasting effect it could have on other forms of the sport. “Why aren’t driving forces like the ECB able to push T20 to the next level?” he asks. “Why can’t they use it as a platform to keep the traditionalist and the new fans happy? If they’re not careful they could start getting lost in terms of where they can drive the sport.”

From the off the ECB has stated that the new competition is about reaching new audiences. Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive, told a DCMS select committee in October that the average England cricket fan is 50 years old and male, highlighting the need and want to diversify its audience.

“Cricket is constantly looking for the holy grail,” suggests Ian. “So we try bringing it up to football levels with big stadiums that are full, continually trying to repeat that and keep the momentum going.”

He adds: “The concern I’ve got is if we’re not careful we’ll have too many games of too many different formats. From a business point of view, you’ve got to ask where the focus is going to be?”

Each of the eight sides has a male and female that is centrally contracted to England as a local icon. The hero of 2019, Ben Stokes, will represent Northern Superchargers, and captain Joe Root will represent Trent Rockets. In the women’s tournament, England captain Heather Knight and opener Tammy Beaumont lead the marquee names and will be playing for London Spirit.

As well as their local icons, the male sides took part in a live televised player draft – a first for British sport – which saw 96 players auctioned off to the highest bidder at prices ranging from £125,000 to £30,000. Overseas players were permitted in the draft, meaning the competition will also see the likes of Rashid Khan and Australian’s Steve Smith and Mitchell Starc take part. Even away from the draft, the competition has sprinkled stardust by bringing in big name coaches to lead the sides including Shane Warne, Darren Lehmann and Mahela Jayawardene.

By tying a number of England’s heroes to a team, and inadvertently capitalising on the success of 2019, this may turn out to be The Hundred’s ace card. In an era when it’s become increasingly rare for centrally contracted players to play for their county, The Hundred will mean a month of domestic and international stars playing around the country.

“What The Hundred is managing to do is get franchise cricket into this country,” Ian says. “It’s managing to get a tournament that’s got less games, but because there are less teams you’re going to get high profile players by default.”

Crucially, he adds: “It’s made county cricketers mobile across the rest of the country.”

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The franchise, or city, model was first mooted to the ECB by former Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) chief executive Keith Bradshaw in 2008 as a way to revamp the T20 format. His proposal was given short shrift but now lives in The Hundred. Meanwhile, the County Championship continues to play out almost behind the scenes during the summer months.

Ian though believes a move towards Australia’s Sheffield Shield system could be next on the ECB’s agenda. “It’ll be worth watching to see if they use The Hundred model to reduce the number of county games,” he explains. “To get the level of county cricket to the height that they want, including the use of high profile players, they could use the eight teams to play ‘super county games’. At that point would people be interested because they’re going to have less games and more focus on that type of cricket?”

Surely they couldn’t rip up the county game? Ian, a proud Yorkshireman and self-proclaimed traditionalist, adds: “I think over time there has to be a movement towards that. Like anything, change takes time; it needs communicating and needs enthusiasm.”

Who will be competing in The Hundred and where will they play?

Birmingham Phoenix

Edgbaston Cricket Ground, Birmingham; Blackfinch New Road, Worcester.

London Spirit

Lords, London; The CloudFM County Ground, Chelmsford; The County Ground, Northampton.

Manchester Originals

Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester.

Northern Superchargers

Emerald Headingley, Leeds; South Northumberland CC, Newcastle; York CC, York.

Oval Invincible

The Kia Oval, London; The County Ground, Beckenham.

Southern Brave

The Ageas Bowl, Southampton; The 1st Central County Ground, Hove.

Trent Rockets

Trent Bridge, Nottingham; The Fischer County Ground, Leicester; The Pattonair County Ground, Derby.

Welsh Fire

Sophia Gardens, Cardiff; The Bristol Country Ground, Bristol; The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton.