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The Hundred bid leaves counties with more questions than answers

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GEORGE DOBELL: Sky News has reported that Bridgepoint Group has offered £400m to buy a 75 per cent stake in the competition but the initial response from county executives contacted by The Cricketer was lukewarm

The ECB has received a bid of £400m to buy a controlling interest in The Hundred.

Sky News has reported that Bridgepoint Group has offered £400m to buy a 75 per cent stake in the competition.

The idea has yet to be put to the counties. Indeed, it seems the majority of executives around the county game were not aware of it until contacted by the media on Saturday.

At this point, the counties have more questions than answers. For one thing, it is unclear what is being sold. Is it the Hundred ball format, or the new team identities?

Equally, there is a lack of clarity over whether the deal would guarantee the window in the season which has effectively been created for the tournament and whether the competition would be played over the T20 or 100-ball format. Until such details are understood, few will commit to a view.

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County chairs have not been bowled over by the news and have more questions than answers [Gareth Copley/Getty Images]

Just as pertinently, it is unclear who would decide whether to accept such a vote. While the 18 counties and the MCC are certain to have a vote, it seems the national counties might, too. That might also mean the potential income is split 41 ways rather than between the first-class teams.

It is possible - perhaps even likely - that this apparent bid may be something of a stalking horse. It may be designed to draw attention to the possibilities of such a deal and be motivated by a desire to bring other suitors to the table. In its current form, it appears unlikely to prove successful but it could be a catalyst for other offers.

According to Sky News, the deal has been put together by Allan Leighton, the former CEO of Asda and current chair of the Co-op.

Leighton is understood to have been a candidate for ECB chair after Colin Graves - he is believed to have been Graves' choice of successor - and, before that, was chair of the ECB nominations committee (again, succeeding Graves) which was responsible for selecting several current members of the board.

The initial response of county executives contacted by The Cricketer was lukewarm. A couple pointed out that the time of the apparent bid, coming as rugby reels from the downside of the private investment model, may prove unhelpful. The game does appear almost habitually cash-strapped, however, and there is no doubt an injection of finance would be welcome.

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ECB chair, Richard Thompson, knows there is a lot of interest in The Hundred [Alex Davidson/Getty Images]

The bid does not come completely out of the blue. Richard Thompson, the new ECB chair, acknowledged the board were considering such possibilities a couple of months ago and, with the game currently undergoing an audit with a view to a blackhole at the heart of its finances, the timing could be designed to offer an apparent solution.

It had previously been anticipated, however, the ECB would not want to relinquish more than 49 per cent of their stake in the Hundred.

Thompson told The Cricketer in September: "We all know at the moment there is a gold rush for TV rights - what are there now? Fourteen T20 franchises in the world. There's so much interest in The Hundred for lots of reasons. Let's just pull it back, we're only in year two."

It remains to be seen whether county members are required to vote on any such prospective deal. Their influence was key in the rejection of Andrew Strauss' high performance review and they may well expect to be consulted on such a significant move. The majority of the first-class counties and the MCC are member owned.


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