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A format similar to Dragons' Den will determine which counties will receive women's teams.
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A format similar to Dragons’ Den will determine which counties will receive women’s teams.

Next week, at Lord’s, interviews will take place to determine the 18 first-class counties that will host professional women’s teams starting in 2025. These interviews will include Kelly Simmons, who previously held the role of director for the women’s professional game at the Football Association, and Maggie Murphy, the chief executive of Lewes FC. This information has been revealed by the Guardian.

The deadline for submissions for hosting one of the newly established “Tier 1” women’s teams has passed as of Monday. A committee consisting of Ebony Rainford-Brent and Neil Snowball from the England and Wales Cricket Board, along with Murphy and Simmons, will be evaluating the applications. Involving external individuals to assess bids is an uncommon occurrence for the ECB. However, it is believed that having two influential figures in women’s football involved will lend more thorough investigation and validity to the selection process. Lewes stands as the sole football club globally to provide equal compensation to both male and female players.

The interviews will take place on 21, 22 and 25 March and will require counties to present their bids to the evaluation panel, Dragons’ Den‑style, before facing a 45-minute Q&A with the panel.

Out of the 18 top-tier regions, it is believed that 16 have turned in proposals, while Derbyshire and Worcestershire have decided not to participate for monetary reasons. The regions have already needed to respond to a set of 32 demanding inquiries, such as explaining the placement of the women’s team in their order of importance, outlining methods to make the women’s teams feel valued and integrated, and securing a prominent role for the women’s team in significant decision-making processes.

They were also required to specify the number of professional contracts they plan to provide for women players from 2025 to 2028, their strategy to ensure equal access to top-notch training facilities for women and girls, and the location for the women’s senior team’s home games.

Kelly Simmons, the former director of the women’s professional game at the Football Association, will be part of the ECB’s selection panelView image in fullscreen

This could be a topic that could cause disagreement. The panel responsible for evaluation will most likely anticipate equal opportunities for women’s teams to utilize venues like the Oval and Lord’s. However, according to the Guardian, certain counties plan on having women’s teams play on pitches owned by clubs and schools. Their reasoning is that county grounds are already filled to capacity. This may become a crucial issue during the interviews.

The ECB will request counties to elaborate on their proposed staffing arrangements for women and describe their strategies for investing directly in women’s cricket, in addition to the £1.3 million annual investment from the ECB.

This procedure may result in disappointment for a number of prominent counties such as Surrey and Kent. These two counties are competing to win the opportunity to host the current South East Stars team.

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Durham, meanwhile, have gone all-out in their attempt to persuade the ECB to relocate the Northern ­Diamonds from Headingley. Last week they released a glossy-looking “launch” video featuring Ben Stokes and Paul Collingwood, who took time out of England’s tour of India to lend their support to the bid.

Source: theguardian.com