Tom Harrison, chief executive of the England & Wales Cricket Board, has refused to deny that the governing body have threatened to strip Surrey, the country’s most financially powerful county, of hosting rights for the new 100-ball competition.
It is understood ECB chairman Colin Graves is seeking to drop The Oval as a venue for The Hundred, which will start next year, after Surrey were the only county to vote against the playing conditions for the new format this week.
That would be a remarkable move by the ECB, who have lined up Bristol and Chelmsford as two potential replacements.
Eight venues for the new franchises had already been announced before the ECB revealed the change in format for the competition last year.
Surrey – the only county with a Test ground who have made a financial success of the T20 Blast – did vote for the new tournament before the 100-ball format was revealed. But their opposition to what many see as an unwanted fourth version of the game is believed to have incensed Graves.
The ECB yesterday confirmed the tournament would officially be named The Hundred and Harrison, currently in Barbados with England, insisted there was “overwhelming support” for the new format. However, he refused to deny the ECB were on a war footing with Surrey, who it is understood are taking the threat of being stripped of hosting rights extremely seriously.
“We have overwhelming support,” said Harrison. “We’ll continue to have discussions to get everyone comfortable with the details. We’re working hard to get every single stakeholder behind it. And I’m sure we will.”
Asked whether it would be a problem not having The Oval – the biggest ground in the country – involved in the new competition, Harrison said: “We’d love the whole game to be with us. I’m not going to comment. It’s a board-level matter. There’s a lot of speculation around this.
The board and executive are working together to make this a success.”
Challenged that the row with Surrey proves there is not overwhelming support for The Hundred, Harrison argued: “Certainly from stakeholders there is. Look at the support from broadcasters, who have invested heavily. It’s already successful in terms of finances and excitement generated.
“I’m confident the game will get behind us.
“We’ve done a lot of work to understand concerns from fans and we’re listening to those concerns.”
Harrison was also keen to play down the theory that the ECB have effectively bought off opponents by promising each county £1.3million extra revenue a year if they support The Hundred.
“It does feel like overwhelming support,” he said. “It’s an exciting moment.”