County cricketers agree 'support package' to help first-class game

Essex win 2019 County Championship
Essex have won the County Championship in two of the past three seasons

County players have agreed a voluntary "support package" that will set "maximum reductions" to salaries during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Professional Cricketers' Association - together with the ECB and 18 first-class counties - have reached an initial agreement for April and May.

Players will agree to be furloughed if requested, with county champions Essex among clubs to ask theirs to do so.

They will also take pay cuts, with the PCA giving up £1m in 2020 prize money.

Following the PCA's announcement, Essex - who also won the T20 Blast last year - confirmed they have placed their players and the majority of non-playing staff on temporary leave until further notice.

"The club will operate with reduced staff throughout April, with regular assessments taking place beyond that," said chief executive Derek Bowden.

"We hope that this will be for as short a period of time as possible and that we can all get back to work and enjoy some cricket in the near future."

Fellow Championship Division One side Kent have put "the majority" of their players on furlough until at least the start of May, with captain Sam Billings agreeing a pay cut despite remaining on duty to support the club's community work.

Meanwhile, batsman Joe Denly - on a separate England central contract - will also "continue to support the club".

"This outcome has not been reached lightly and I want to thank all of our players who are standing shoulder to shoulder with their colleagues during the pandemic," said Kent director of cricket Paul Downton.

Division Two clubs Leicestershire and Glamorgan have also introduced a furlough, but for a specified period of three weeks and to the end of May respectively, while Derbyshire are not giving a timeframe following their decision to also adopt the agreement.

"We've had to take the decision to furlough 44 staff, 17 players and 27 non-playing staff," newly-appointed Leicestershire chief executive Sean Jarvis told BBC Radio Leicester.

"When we come out of this, we have to make sure we come out of it strongly, and fired up for the season, if it takes place this, or next, year. It has been really heartwarming, and everyone is in unison with this."

Yorkshire and Worcestershire had previously confirmed that they were using the government's job retention scheme.

The Championship season was scheduled to begin on Sunday but has been delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Some counties have told BBC Sport they are preparing for potentially no cricket at all to be played in 2020.

"The understanding from our players and the willingness to help has been particularly heartening," said PCA chairman Daryl Mitchell, and also an all-rounder for Worcestershire.

"As a group of players, we will do everything we can to ensure that when cricket does return the sport is in a position to thrive."

Domestic prize money will also be relinquished as part of the agreement.

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