Women’s cricket – Kent and Northants to bid for professional women’s teams in 2025

Kent will bid for one of eight professional women’s teams in England’s top domestic competition from 2025 onwards in a breakaway from the current South East Stars regional side, while Northamptonshire have also lodged their bid for a team.

Surrey, who along with Kent, provide the majority of players at Stars, have already announced they intend “to take full ownership” of South East Stars under a revamp of the women’s domestic competition, which currently comprises the 50-over Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and the 20-over Charlotte Edwards Cup.

Last month, the ECB invited the 18 first-class counties and the MCC to tender for one of eight women’s professional Tier 1 clubs in a move away from the current structure, in place since 2020, whereby teams have fallen under central ECB control and largely encompass more than one county.

From the start of the 2025 season, the eight teams will compete in the top level of an expanded three-tier women’s domestic structure. By aligning teams more closely with existing counties, and their men’s teams, the ECB is seeking to address an identity crisis that has afflicted some of the regional teams while expanding marketing of the domestic women’s game.

Kent confirmed on Friday it would submit its Tier 1 bid to the ECB this month and hoped to know the outcome later this year.

Megan Belt, Kent Women’s Captain, said “the opportunity to be a professional cricketer in Kent would be a completely different prospect to how my personal journey has been so far”.

“Being able to train and practice as much as a men’s county side, using the facilities they use and having access to the same level of support staff, would be an absolute game changer for us,” she said. “I’m hoping that our bid is successful, and that Kent Women can once again compete against the best domestic sides in the country for silverware.”

Kent Women have won 10 league championships and five T20 titles. They won the last Women’s County Championship in 2019. ‘The Horses’, as they affectionately call themselves, have an existing performance cricket talent pathway running from Under 11s to first-team level.

Among the county’s most recent homegrown international representatives are Tammy Beaumont, Tash Farrant and Alice Davidson-Richards, as well as the retired Lydia Greenway.

Kent’s director of cricket, Simon Cook, said the club was “determined to provide a professional cricketing future for aspiring young female cricketers from our county”.

“We’ve seen local talent win the biggest prizes on the biggest stages in regional, franchise and international cricket over many years now, and there’s an excitement around Kent that we can produce more elite cricketers for many years to come,” he said. “A professional Kent Women side would continue to produce England players through our extensive talent identification and training programmes and facilities.”

Northamptonshire announced on Friday that they had submitted a bid to be awarded one of the eight Tier 1 teams, sharing the same branding and identity as the club’s professional men’s squads and known as the Northamptonshire Steelbacks Women.

Northamptonshire chief executive Ray Payne said: “The number of women and girls involved in the game within our county is growing at a rapid rate, the number of players at all levels in Northamptonshire grew by 160% last year alone. Being able to deliver a clear pathway for a young girl in Northamptonshire to progress from soft ball cricket to a full-time professional contract, playing at Wantage Road, is a special thing and we are investing hugely to make that a reality.”

Northamptonshire Women’s Jodi Grewcock and Josie Groves, who currently play for Sunrisers and The Blaze respectively, were this week named in the England Women U19 squad to tour Sri Lanka for a tri-series with the hosts and Australia in late March and early April.

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