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Durham selected ahead of Yorkshire to host professional women’s county team
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Durham selected ahead of Yorkshire to host professional women’s county team

Durham’s chief executive, Tim Bostock, said he was “delighted” with the England and Wales Cricket Board’s decision to award the county the right to host a professional women’s team, after they beat off strong competition from neighbouring Yorkshire.

The first-class counties have spent the past two and a half months competing for the right to host one of the eight new professional “tier 1” women’s teams, and in March presented their bids to a panel which included Kelly Simmons, former director of the women’s professional game at the Football Association, and Maggie Murphy, the chief executive of Lewes FC. At an ECB board meeting on Wednesday, Durham, Essex, Hampshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Somerset, Surrey and Warwickshire were formally approved as the hosts.

Yorkshire have been the home of the Diamonds women’s team since 2016, but an impressive bid from ­Durham – supported by Ben Stokes and Paul Collingwood – impressed the ECB enough to convince it that the north-east team should be based at Chester-le-Street.

The Guardian understands that Durham’s commitment to ­hosting every home match at the main ­Riverside ground was a key reason for the success of their bid. A number of other counties had planned for the women to play on club and school pitches.

“Giving the women the opportunity to play on an international Test ground is a big thing,” Bostock said. “We want to take women’s cricket to the next level.

“Our growth in girls playing cricket over the last five years has been the highest in the country. Given our track record of producing England players, and our strong development pathways, we have every confidence we’ll be able to replicate that for girls moving into elite professional cricket.”

However, Yorkshire are set to join Durham in tier 1 in 2027, alongside Glamorgan, after the ECB unexpectedly unveiled plans to add four more women’s professional domestic teams by 2029. The original intention had been to continue with an eight-team top tier for at least the next four years, but the ECB director of the women’s professional game, Beth Barrett-Wild, said that the “quality and ambition of the bids” had convinced the ECB to accelerate the pace of professionalism.

Other notable teams to miss out were Kent and Sussex, who between them won 14 out of 23 Women’s County Championship titles in the previous iteration of the competition between 1997 and 2019. Middlesex, whose bid was backed by MCC, lost out to Essex, while Somerset beat both Glamorgan and Gloucestershire in the race to host the south-west side. Unsuccessful counties will now be invited to be involved in the composition of tiers 2 and 3, but with the added incentive of putting themselves forward to be one of the two teams added to tier 1 in 2029.

The decision puts Somerset and Durham in pole position should the ECB go ahead with plans to expand The Hundred from eight to 10 teams in 2025. Bostock acknowledged that this had been a key reason behind Durham’s bid.

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“We absolutely have aspirations to be part of the expanded Hundred as and when that happens, and part of that process is that we need to demonstrate we can run a very successful women’s professional team,” he said.

He added that the Northern Diamonds head coach, Dani Hazell, who played for Durham between 2002 and 2007 before going on to represent England, was likely to play a key role in the new women’s setup. “She’ll be delighted tonight,” he said. “It would have been a dream for her, and I’m pretty certain she will be front and centre of Durham’s first professional team.”

Source: theguardian.com