CRICKET - Warwickshire win bid for professional women's team - The Leamington Observer

CRICKET - Warwickshire win bid for professional women's team

Leamington Editorial 20th Apr, 2024 Updated: 22nd Apr, 2024   0

WARWICKSHIRE have won their bid to add a professional women’s team from next season as one of eight sides in a new national structure.

The Bears made their pitch for a Tier 1 team to the ECB earlier this year as part of a multi-million pound plan to expand women’s cricket with the introduction of a three-tier system featuring eight fully professional sides.

And one of those eight teams will be based at Edgbaston with top tier clubs to take part in domestic 50-over and T20 competitions.

Warwickshire chief executive Stuart Cain said: “This is brilliant news and gives the region a top level women’s Bears team on a par with Aston Villa women in top level football.

“More importantly, it will inspire future generations of girls to pursue a career in cricket and bring new fans to the sport.

“We’ve passionately supported women’s cricket for a number of years and seen some of the biggest crowds in women’s cricket at Edgbaston for last year’s Ashes and before that the Commonwealth Games.

“In fact, we go back even further, working with Wolverhampton’s Rachael Heyhoe-Flint to hold the first ever Women’s World Cup at Edgbaston in the 1970s.

“We also brought together the first ever all-women grounds team for last year’s Ashes game as part of our Edgbaston for Everyone pledge.

“Not only is this an exciting move for existing players, but inspirational for girls in our county age groups.

“They now have a clear path through our excellent youth and Academy systems into professional cricket and hopefully beyond to international cricket.

“The ECB has acknowledged the time is right to develop and expand the women’s game, to continue accelerating performance standards, and make England Women’s cricket the best in the world.

“We’re grateful for the opportunity to be part of this movement that we’ve long championed.”

The competitions, currently known as the Charlotte Edwards Cup and Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, will remain closed from relegation and promotion until 2028.

Central Sparks, a West Midlands women’s side featuring players from Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Staffordshire and Shropshire, formed in 2020 and play home games at both Edgbaston and Worcestershire’s New Road.

The Sparks will reform at the end of this season to become a fully professional Bears side.

Sparks’ director of cricket, Laura MacLeod, said: “To be able to walk in through the gates here at Edgbaston, proudly wearing the Bear and Ragged Staff, knowing it’s our home, that we’re welcome, supported and have a sense of belonging. That will be amazing.

“Our players want to play an exciting brand of cricket, at big grounds, and in front of passionate crowds.

“Their talent warrants it. So there’s tangible excitement at that prospect, at making Edgbaston home, and being part of some T20 double headers alongside the men.

“We will continue working with counties and clubs in the West Midlands region, who will form part of the Tier 2 and 3 system, to identify and nurture the best young talent.

“They will continue to be a key component to the success of our new professional side.

“We’ve come a long way since the end of my playing days 20 years ago. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d get to where we are now.

“But better never stops. I’m hungry for more and want to play my part in continuing to evolve the game.”


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