The ECB had late last year announced that 40 domestic contracts would be handed out in addition to the 17 central contracts as part of their £20 million investment in the women's game. However, the coronavirus crisis meant the plans were put on hold.
With the board potentially facing a loss of between £100 million and £380 million as a result of the pandemic, the original plan to transform the women's game has been modified, with each regional Centre of Excellence awarding three contracts each instead of the originally proposed five. These retainers will commence in June, and four months later, in October, will transition to full-time deals. The deals will last for 13 months.
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English, Welsh and Scottish players are eligible for contracts, while those from Ireland count as overseas professionals and therefore cannot earn a retainer. The players being awarded contracts will be contacted directly by the respective directors of cricket.
The Cricketer reported that the retainers will be worth £1,000 per month, with full-time potentially paying £18,000 per year.
The ECB has also informed the players that they hope to hold domestic cricket in the 2020-21 season and have thus created a 'pay as you play' facility. This policy will be started across regions in case the one-day competition - meant to be played in September - takes place. The Cricketer went on to report that the squad of 15 will be paid £200 per match.
While the original contract number stood at 40, the ECB have made clear that they fully intend to award all 40 full-time domestic contracts at a later date.
Furthermore, Telegraph Sport confirmed that the four cricketers currently holding England 'rookie' contracts will likely be awarded full-time contracts this summer, possible as early as June. Players earning these contracts will have to adhere to the training programs provided by the ECB , while also needing to attend online classes on anti-doping and anti-corruption.
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"The momentum behind the women’s game has been staggering in the last few years and it is still firmly our ambition to build on that," Clare Connor, managing director of women's cricket, said. "As we emerge from this pandemic, we believe even more strongly that cricket will be a sport that throws its arms around everyone – truly inclusive, diverse and a sport for modern Britain to be proud of."
"This was due to be the most exciting year in the game’s history for our leading domestic players. A number of them would have been hoping to sign a full-time contract with one of our eight regions this summer. While we still intend to award those full-time contracts in 2020, we want to try to support our players as much as we can until that point, hence the introduction of these retainers to provide an interim solution."
"As the effects of Covid-19 on the rest of the summer and beyond become more apparent, we will continue to support our players to the best of our ability, and we promise them that our drive for a more gender-balanced sport remains vitally important."