Martin Davies over at WCB has a fantastic in-depth interview with "The Boss", Clare Connor. Martin is a lawyer by profession, so you'd expect him to ask a lot of good questions; and to be fair The Boss gives some pretty straight answers.
Here are my 'key takes':
Connor basically admits that the "18 Full Time Professionals" thing is a bit of a fiction. The Tier 3 contracts are not a living wage (they "nearly" are) and the Tier 2 contracts aren't worth much more. This fits in with what I'd heard about the T2s - to quote, "I'd earn more working in MacDonnalds"!
I should add at this juncture, that I don't actually have any massive issues with where we are - the fact that there are contracts at all is a huge step up from where we were even a year ago. But I do just wish the ECB would be a bit more honest and not try to spin things to the point where people think that Lottie and Co. are partying in First Class with Broady and Cooky, which (a) could not be further from the truth; and (b) is already coming back to bite them.
Having slammed the door on WICL earlier in the summer, Connor seems to back-track a little, admitting that things might change in 12 or 24 months. If I were to really read between the lines here, I'd say she's hinting that if WICL comes back as a genuine "partnership" with Cricket Australia (i.e. not an independent entity, but falling under the auspices of CA), it could still be a goer as far as the ECB is concerned.
It's no surprise that I'm massively in favour of WICL; and if it is a secret that many of the players are too, it's not a very well kept one; so I think re-opening that door, even if just a chink, is A Good Thing™ and I'm glad Connor has hinted at doing so.
On The County Championship
Two key rumours have been doing the rounds for several months now - that 2015 will see (a) coloured clothing, and (b) home-and-away rounds. Sources close to the ECB had already told me that the former was much more likely than the latter, and Connor basically confirms that here.
I think coloured clothing is great news, and I'm going to post on it separately, but just while we are on the subject: Clare, if you are reading this, please, please, please can we have names on shirts too?
One other interesting point - actually, I think the most interesting - is the admission that the top flight needs to be "more top-flight". We have to concentrate all the England players in Division 1 - it is ridiculous that none of the England batsmen playing in the County Championship this year faced either of our two fastest bowlers (Cross & Shrubsole) because they were both playing in Division 2! (And we wonder why they crumbled when faced with Goswami and Niranjana?)
On Test Cricket
Connor essentially admits that Test cricket isn't commercially viable by itself. Back-of-an-envelope calculations I made last year, with the help of someone who has good day-to-day knowledge of how much events like this cost to run, suggested that Wormsley probably made a loss - and if last year probably did, this year certainly did, with (I reckon) less than half the number of paying spectators!
The key question then is, is it worth carrying on with a format that we are going to see at most once or twice a year going forwards? Connor seems to suggest not, saying that it is "really hard to justify". That must have been tough to admit; but maybe it is the reality that we all (administrators, players and fans) have to face?