Clare Connor. © Getty Images

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has reiterated its commitment to the women’s game, saying the intended multi-million dollar investment “will be protected” despite the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Clare Connor, ECB’s managing director of women’s cricket, stated there are no guarantees, but the board is without doubt committed to bridging the gender divide within the game.

“I remain really confident that the momentum we’ve built behind the women’s and girls’ game will be protected to the absolute best of our endeavors,” Connor told The Associated Press on Wednesday (May 20). “There is a very strong desire to protect the investment into the women’s and girls’ game.”

The pandemic has resulted in the deaths of over 35,000 people in Britain, bringing life as we know it to a halt.

The cricket community has come together through this period to try and support each other. The ECB on Thursday (May 21) launched their ‘Together Through This Test’ campaign highlighting the volunteer efforts of various cricketers and clubs who have rallied together to support their neighbours through more than 200 initiatives.

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The campaign offers online resources to support the game and its volunteers.

“We are a very small piece of an enormous, difficult jigsaw,” said Connor, who captained England in her playing days. “If we can make some contribution to boosting morale or keeping people hopeful of better times, then that will have been a job well done.”

The Hundred competition, meant to be played in July-August, was supposed to be the main event on the women’s domestic calendar. It was believed the new format would be able to capitalise on the popularity gained by the men’s and women’s ODI World Cup winning teams over the last couple of years by bringing in a new audience. However, the postponement of the tournament has put a wedge in ECB’s ‘Inspiring Generations’ five-year plan announced last October.

The original plan was for the ECB to invest a total of 50 million pounds over a period of five years to help in the growth and development of women’s game across England and Wales. The idea was to increase the participation of women and girls across the region and to identify and develop elite players.

However, in addition to the cancellation of The Hundred competition this season, the ECB have been forced to postpone the start of the domestic season until July 1. A new semi-professional has been tentatively scheduled for September, but it is likely the 2020-21 season loss could run up to 400 million pounds, Connor admitted.

ALSO READ: Postponement of The Hundred is going to be a problem: Charlotte Edwards

“If we were to suffer the worst-case scenario, in terms of nearly 400 million pounds of losses this year, then we are going to have to revise most of our plans for the coming years, and that would be across the game,” she said.

Looking at the current scenario in a more positive light, Connor said the ECB’s commitment to providing 24 contracts to domestic players is a step in the right direction. It could help create a proper pathway for young girls to make their way through the ranks.

“That’s the utopia we’re after, and that obviously doesn’t happen overnight because we’re a game built on foundations and structures that have been about catering for men and boys for decades,” she said.