Scottish and Irish officials have thrown their weight behind the creation of a new European cricket league.
The proposal, which would be organised on similar lines to rugby union's successful RaboDirect PRO12 competition, would include regional teams from Scotland, Ireland, Netherlands, and possibly Denmark and the Channel Islands, and could be implemented as early as the summer of 2014.
Many details have still to be finalised, but the league would feature eight or 10 teams; matches would be in the Twenty20 and 50 overs-a-side formats, and they would be contested on a home-and-away basis.
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There is a new urgency about establishing a higher tier of cricket for the elite Associate players in Europe, following the confirmation last weekend that neither the Scots nor the Dutch will be involved in action against the English counties after the end of next season.
"It is a sound concept and we have been talking to the Irish and Dutch about something on these lines for a while," said Andy Tennant, the performance director of Cricket Scotland, yesterday. "When we relaunched the Regional Series in 2010, it was always in the back of our minds that a European league had merit and we don't live in a bubble, so we can see how rugby has benefited from the development of a Celtic, then Magners [and now RaboDirect PRO12] League.
"Most people seem enthusiastic about this proposal. I think there is a general recognition that we need to develop a professional or semi-professional structure to straddle the yawning chasm between domestic club games and the inter-national circuit."
Tennant's positivity was echoed by Warren Deutrom, the chief executive of Cricket Ireland, whose organisation is striving to bolster their district structure, in advance of entering a cross-border tournament. "The idea of a European provincial league, a la the RaboDirect, should certainly be a short- to medium-term objective. It has both cricketing and, hopefully, commercial appeal," said Deutrom.
"Our short-term objective in 2013 is to properly establish the inter-provincial set-up in Ireland and give [participating] teams an opportunity to establish themselves properly, before we start unleashing them on the world."
*The Scottish Wildcats women's development squad are setting out to raise funds, starting with a sponsored walk over the Forth Road Bridge, tomorrow morning. The party, led by captain Abbi Aitken will cross the bridge in full gear – including whites, pads, helmets and bats – in an effort to raise £15,000 to enable them to compete in an MCC Invitational event in Dubai in 2013.
"The girls are all really excited about the trip, and it is an invitation we accepted, on the basis of getting to play some high quality pre-season cricket [against the likes of the MCC, and county opponents such as Lancashire, Durham and Warwickshire]," said Kari Carswell, the governing body's women's development manager.