Steve Harmison: Durham survival allows local players to aspire to international career

Other counties may fear sanctions - Harmison

Durham's survival is a boost in spite of their "heartbreaking" relegation, allowing North East players a crucial pathway to international cricket, says ex-England fast bowler Steve Harmison.

Debts of £3.8m were cleared by a financial aid package from the England and Wales Cricket Board.

In return, the county were relegated, deducted points for 2017 and stripped of Test ground status.

"The most important thing is Durham are still here," Harmison said.

He told BBC Look North: "At places like Ashington Cricket Club where people like myself and Mark Wood (came from), Durham gave us a chance to play first-class cricket.

"Because the ECB has bailed Durham out, we still have a club to aim for. The same with players at Shotley Bridge, where Paul Collingwood was from, and Annfield Plain, where Neil Killeen was from.

"Players from this area have had something to aspire to. We have to be thankful for that.

"The issues have been nipped in the bud, we've got a chance to remodel and go forward on the right footing."

Production line

There was anger and frustration from the players at Durham, who fought to preserve their Division One status and eventually finished fourth before relegation was imposed.

The ECB has benefitted directly from the infrastructure at the Riverside, with a list of local players playing international cricket including Harmison, captain Collingwood and currently, Ben Stokes and Wood.

Finances will be restricted with a revised salary cap from 2017 to 2020, meaning the reliance on locally produced talent will be even more imperative.

"We will still produce cricketers from the North East potentially to play for England," Harmison added.

"If we do that then Durham will be successful, but the other side needs looking after by experts."