New Hampshire chairman says Hundred expansion ‘makes good sense’

Hampshire’s new chairman believes that expanding the Hundred “makes good sense” for English cricket and is open to speaking to prospective investors as the ECB and counties continue to debate the competition’s future.

The Hundred will remain unchanged in 2024, taking place in a four-week window from late July to late August, but the ECB hope to resolve discussions over its long-term future in the spring, ahead of potential expansion or private investment in time for the 2025 season. The competition will continue in some form until at least the end of 2028, when the ECB’s current broadcast deal with Sky Sports expires.

Hampshire were prominent advocates of a city-based, short-form competition in English cricket under their long-serving chairman Rod Bransgrove, and that stance will be maintained by his successor. Nick Pike, an original investor in the club’s parent company in 2001, formally took over from Bransgrove at the start of the year and said: “The Hundred is clearly important to the game.”

Pike told ESPNcricinfo: “Expanding it in a way that is profitable is important: it is good for the watching public and for the brand itself. We’ve got to be honest, there are quite a few pressures on the forms of cricket within the English game, and indeed at the global level. There are more and more short-form competitions around the world.

“We need to have strong venues to deliver that type of quality of product quickly, and we need to have the best players playing in it. Rushing to a solution that doesn’t retain those two things, I think would be wrong. I do think expansion makes good sense as long as it’s managed and thought through from those points of view.”

Tim Bostock, Durham’s chief executive, said last month that he is “100% committed” to hosting a team and hinted at the possibility of investment from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in a potential north-east Hundred team, following their takeover of Newcastle United Football Club in 2021.

Both Gloucestershire – who are exploring the possibility of relocating away from their existing ground in Bristol to an out-of-town venue – and Somerset would be in contention to host a prospective south-west team. Pike said that all counties must consider how the Hundred can fit into cricket’s changing global landscape.

“To me, it’s like any business: you want to seize that opportunity and to consider potential change. We need to understand income streams, the demands of the public and everything else around the game. So how do we then make that work, given those changes? I think we are well positioned not only to cope with, but maybe be the driver of some of those changes.”

Hampshire were part of a short-lived tie-up with Rajasthan Royals back in 2010, a harbinger of the recent exponential expansion of IPL franchises’ global footprints. “The concept was a good one,” Pike said. “There’s significant money in the game now, particularly in the subcontinent. If we don’t recognise that, then we’re playing with our eyes and ears closed.

“The Hundred has gone well: the obvious reason is the success [of Southern Brave] on the pitch, but I would also point to the public, families, and new watchers of cricket coming in, which has been very strong. With the talk about ownership of teams… could there be linkages across countries? I’m sure there could well be, yes, but I just don’t know how that is going to shake out.”

The majority of counties operate as members’ clubs but Hampshire – along with Durham and Northamptonshire – are an exception. “That means we have control of our destiny and the opportunity to determine which way we go,” Pike said, “but ironically, I think we’re a lot closer to our members than many members-run clubs.

“Hampshire have always, in the 20 years I’ve been here, been a progressive club. It’s not a ‘who owns what?’ type of thing: if there are opportunities to change the ownership structure [of Hundred teams] then it is only good if it leads to developing and growing the game. I’d like to think that, at Hampshire, we are very well positioned for whichever way we might move forwards.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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