Yesterday Cricket Australia released a program of operational changes that will provide savings in response to the COVID-19 situation while ensuring the long-term sustainability and growth of the game.

Cricket Australia Chairman Earl Eddings said while difficult decisions unfortunately had to be made, cricket’s early response has helped the organisation weather the initial impacts of the pandemic. This has allowed the organisation to adjust its plans for the 2020/21 financial year (FY21) in line with an increasingly optimistic national outlook.

The amended FY21 plan identifies cost reductions of approximately $40 million/year to partly mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on revenue and other factors such as bio-security costs and match attendances. Regrettably, the plan also includes a reduction of 40 roles.

The key components of the FY21 plan include:

- Protecting the long-term integrity of the game starting at the grassroots by retaining our commitment to Alinta Energy My Cricket, Woolworths Cricket Blast programs, junior cricket initiatives and continuing to invest in community facilities and technology platforms;

- Ensuring the elite men’s and women’s teams are appropriately and prudently resourced, including our commitment to support mental health and well-being;

- Continuing the Marsh Sheffield Shield, WNCL and Marsh One-Day Cup in their current formats for the FY20-21 season and maintaining the current number of games for rebel WBBL and KFC BBL;

- Pausing international tours for Australia A teams, as well as CA XI fixtures, the Fox Cricket National Premier Cricket T20 and Toyota Second XI competitions for FY21;

- Retaining the U19s male and female representative teams as an important part of the pathway for emerging talent, while pausing male U15s and U17s and female U15s representative teams for FY21;

- Providing the States and Territories with greater autonomy to develop players in readiness for the elite level, addressing a long-standing request for change and significantly reducing costs of duplicate efforts at state and national level;

- Retaining our commitment to work with States and Territories to support programs and championships that foster diversity and inclusion, including the National Cricket Inclusion Championships, National Indigenous Cricket Championships and Toyota Australian Country Cricket Championships;

- Reducing budgets in areas including administration, travel, marketing and advertising; and

- Cutting all bonuses for senior management and implementing ongoing executive pay reductions.

Interim Chief Executive Nick Hockley said Cricket Australia had sought to strike the right balance between continuing to invest in activities that would nurture and grow cricket in Australia while adopting a pragmatic approach to finding savings in non-essential and non-cricket-related activities.

Due to the funding and resources that Cricket ACT receive from CA in relation to several of these competitions, ACT programs will inevitably need to be modified. However, Cricket ACT High Performance personnel have been working with the State and Territory Associations to determine the best way for these competitions to proceed in some capacity, if not as normal. The outlook for cricket in the ACT this coming season is positive which is largely attributable to several commercial partners who are renewing or reinvigorating their connection with cricket in the region.

Women’s National Cricket League - Abode Hotels ACT Meteors

Cricket Australia has confirmed that the WNCL will remain unchanged at 8 rounds and a final, with the first round likely happening in September. Cricket ACT have finalised the squad for the new season and will be announcing a new captain/coach combination in the coming weeks.

It is unlikely that the ACT Meteors will travel to Darwin this year to participate in the Strike League, however, the intention is to play in that competition leading into the 2021/22 season.

Cricket ACT High Performance staff are working closely with Cricket NSW to schedule a series of home and away preseason trail matches as well as intra-squad competitive fixtures.

The WBBL will remain consistent as per last season which Cricket ACT are grateful for as many ACT Meteors take part in that competition.

Cricket ACT CEO James Allsopp said, "Women's cricket has been on a high following the World Cup. There is no intention from anyone within Australian Cricket to minimise the domestic female cricket program because it has been such a great breeding ground for a world champion national team."

National Premier Cricket T20 Competition

Cricket Australia has confirmed that this competition will be paused for the 2020/21 season.

There will likely be additional opportunities for premier cricketers in Canberra. In November last year Cricket ACT created the All Stars 4 Mental Health initiative which saw the best of the northside take on the best of the southside premier cricketers. Cricket ACT are looking to expand this concept which would include three T20 fixtures.

Toyota Second XI - ACT/NSW Country Comets

The Toyota Second XI competition that the ACT/NSW Country Comets play in has been paused for the 2020/21 season.

Cricket ACT are working closely with Cricket NSW and other states to create a bilateral Second XI competition. The finer details are still being worked through; however, it is expected there will be some form of Second XI cricket for the Comets this year.

Allsopp noted, "It is important as we want our premier cricketers striving to push into the Comets team. We've seen the opportunity catapult players into first class cricket each year.

Then there are players such as Nick Winter, Mac Wright and Matthew Gilkes, who have recently come onto the domestic scene. They all started in Canberra premier cricket and then were selected in the Comets.

People like Nathan Lyon and Brad Haddin became international cricketers. We want to ensure that pathway is still there and we're confident that will be the case."

Male U15s, 17s and Female U15s

The Male & Female 15s and Male 17s National Cricket Championships have been paused for the coming season.

That said, a new partnership with a local partner has enabled Cricket ACT to investigate the possibility of hosting a National U15 carnival here in Canberra for both male and female teams. At this stage only preliminary discussions have been initiated; however, Cricket ACT are confident that there will be a competitive opportunity for this cohort of players during the 2020/21 season.

Cricket ACT has also introduced a Rookie Program as part of their High-Performance Pathway. This program will consist of a Junior and Senior squad which are specifically designed for players who are on the cusp of selection in the ACT/NSW Country squads. The purpose of this initiative is to continue developing local cricketers while the game resets after COVID-19. ACT/NSW Comets Coach Kyle Piper and ACT Meteor Erin Osborne will be leading this program.

In addition to the Rookie Program, a franchise pathway competition will be introduced this season to provide players with additional competition and training opportunities. Further information will be provided in the coming weeks, including the announcement of a new Cricket ACT pathway sponsor.

Toyota Australian Country Cricket Championships

Cricket Australia has confirmed that the Australian Country Cricket Championships (ACCC) will go ahead for the coming season.

The ACT had not represented in the ACCC for 6 years until last year’s competition. This was an excellent experience for cricketers in the ACT and a further stretch opportunity for their development. The intention is for the ACT to again compete in the 2020/21 season, subject to funding.

Allsopp concluded, “we are stubbornly optimistic and excited about the 2020/21 cricket. There will be more opportunities for young cricketers in Canberra than there were before the pandemic and these opportunities will ensure the ACT remains a talent nursery for Australian cricket. I am proud of the Cricket ACT team who have worked diligently and taken control in forging ahead with a local operating plan that, despite the challenging circumstances, will deliver high quality cricket experiences that will unite and inspire the ACT cricket community. Keep your eyes peeled for a number of big announcements which will provide further detail.”