English cricket has received a “£400m private equity approach” for a majority stake in the Hundred, a potentially gamechanging moment for the sport. The offer for 75% of the sport’s newest competition has come from Bridgepoint Group, a London-listed buyout firm, offering an injection of funds for the England and Wales Cricket Board and the 18 first-class counties, according to Sky News.
The Hundred, which launched in 2021 after a 12-month delay because of the Covid-19 pandemic, has long been considered ripe for private investment amid the overall rise of franchised Twenty20 competitions around the world.
But while Richard Thompson, the new England and Wales Cricket Board chair, did not rule out this possibility when speaking to the Guardian this week, he also struck a word of caution about seeking outside investment before the tournament has bedded in.
Thompson said: “There’s a feeding frenzy at the moment – rights holders have never seen a rise like the one they have [recently] and the Hundred will undoubtedly get more and more interest as a unique format that finds an audience the others don’t.
“We’re open but treading carefully in that space. We’re not going early. It’s just two years old, we can’t get greedy, we have to see it play out. The worst thing would be to do something too early, then see the value go through the roof and you’ve lost out and someone else benefits. It’s important to let it grow and develop first.”
Though it has been met with opposition from a large section of cricket supporters and caused headaches over scheduling and player availability, the Hundred has provided a boost for the women’s game and has now been locked in until 2028 after the ECB extended its broadcast deal with Sky Sports during the summer.
Thompson, who was sceptical about the Hundred when the chair of Surrey, also confirmed the 100-ball format will remain, despite suggestions it may convert to a Twenty20 competition in order to align with other leagues and international cricket.
Differentiation from the T20 Blast is among the reasons for this, with Thompson and his new chief executive, Richard Gould, expected to divert more central funds into promoting the 18-team county competition.
A terrestrial broadcast partner for 2025 to 2028 is yet to be secured – the BBC is the current broadcaster – and this package is set to include a new weekly free-to-air T20 Blast programme, along with live Hundred games and international highlights.