ECB announce funding boost to transform women's cricket

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Brunt says England need investment to catch Australia (1:43)

Bowler Katherine Brunt hopes that ECB investment will help England women catch up with rivals Australia. (1:43)

The England & Wales Cricket Board has pledged a funding boost for women's cricket of £20 million over two years, and plans to invest £50 million in the next five years, in a bid to make cricket into a gender-balanced sport.

The challenge of transforming women's and girls' cricket was one of six priorities within the ECB's 'Inspiring Generations' strategy for 2020-2024, and part of the new remit is a commitment to the funding of 40 full-time professional, domestic contracts, in addition to the existing central contracts for England Women's elite players.

A ten-point action plan was unveiled by Clare Connor, the ECB's managing director for women's cricket, at an event in London, with a focus on five key objectives:

Participation: To increase the number of women and girls playing cricket recreationally
Pathway: To develop aspiring female cricketers (U11-17) as players and people
Performance: To drive the performance of England women's cricket through a new semi-professional, eight region structure
Profile: To elevate the profile of women's cricket through The Hundred, the England Women's team and the elite game
People: To increase the representation of women across the cricket workforce

"Cricket has been an integral part of my life, as a player and in my role of Managing Director of Women's Cricket. I have never been more excited by the opportunity in front of us right now," said Connor.

"Recent initiatives have given women and girls more opportunities to play, such as All Stars Cricket for 5-8-year-olds, the South Asian female activators programme, and the Kia Super League for our most talented domestic cricketers. But to truly transform women's and girls' cricket, we must now move from targeted standalone programmes to addressing the whole pathway as one.

"We have an amazing opportunity to make cricket the sport we want it to be - a sport that is modern, innovative and inclusive. I have been so heartened by the level of enthusiasm, commitment and support for this plan from everyone involved in cricket."

Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, added: "During the development of Inspiring Generations, and extensive conversations and research across the game, the strong appetite to transform cricket's relationship with women and girls was abundantly clear.

"There is tremendous energy across the cricket network to pursue the game's largest growth opportunity and to increase the number of women and girls playing, watching and volunteering at every level of the game.

"This plan, formed in collaboration with the whole cricket network, and supported by our commercial and media partners, represents a crucial step in achieving our ambition of making cricket a gender-balanced sport."

The plan was produced following two years of consultation with all 38 Counties and Cricket Wales, and detailed analysis of thousands of survey responses from the recreational and elite game.

To test some of the recommendations for the recreational game, ECB has run pilot programmes with over 600 cricket clubs to better understand the essential criteria in creating the most sustainable women's and girls' clubs.

"This action plan is a really exciting next step in the continued growth of women's cricket," said Heather Knight, England Women's captain. "We need more young girls to be inspired to play and those young girls need to be able to see a clear pathway above them that encourages them to continue pursuing the game.

"As England players we're fortunate enough to meet lots of young girls who love the game and it means so much to us to see how much they love cricket. Much of this plan is about normalising the game for women and girls and I'm excited to see how this increased opportunity takes the game forward."