Durham relegated over financial woes

England Cricket provides A$6.4m bailout to keep Paul Collingwood's team afloat but relegation could spark legal war between counties and ECB

England side Durham have been relegated from the County Championship's first division due to financial problems, while a legal stoush is brewing after Hampshire were permitted to reclaim their top-flight place.

Durham's sanction was agreed with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Monday as a condition of £3.8 million (A$6.4m) financial support from the governing body.

The north-east based county will begin next season in the second division with an additional 48-point penalty.

Hampshire had been relegated from the first division after a dismal season, but have been reinstated to the top flight, much to the chagrin of Kent.

Kent, who finished second in the second division, will seek legal advice and consider launching an appeal to be promoted at Hampshire's expense.

Kent chairman George Kennedy said: "We will consult our lawyers. We need to find out how we can appeal against a decision we consider unfair.

"We are very upset. We expected we would be given an opportunity to present our case to the ECB," Kennedy told ESPN.

"It seems to be an arbitrary decision and the ECB are hiding behind regulations that nobody appears to have seen."

Durham have also lost the right to be able to apply to host Test matches at their Riverside venue. The ground has hosted six Tests, including the fourth Ashes Test of the 2013 series where England secured the urn. Limited-overs internationals, including a Twenty20 next year, can still take place in Durham.

England legend Ian Botham, who finished his county career with Durham, revealed he is willing to help his old team get back on a firm financial footing.

"Things had to change," he told Sky Sports.

"It's very, very early. But yes, I'll be willing to throw my hat into the ring to help and we'll see what happens.

"That's to be decided. That's what the discussions will be about.

"It's in its infancy, so we'll just wait and see. But I'm very pleased to be involved. 

"The north east is where I live, and the north east deserves to have a first-class cricket team."

It was first revealed last week that Durham may face relegation as they and the ECB seek a solution to the club's financial difficulties.

An ECB statement on Monday confirmed relegation and a series of further measures.

They include the return of all prizemoney, the imposition of a revised salary cap up to April 2020 – reviewed annually by the governing body – and respective four and two-point penalties in next year's Twenty20 and one-day competitions.

A Durham County Cricket Club spokesperson said: "The Durham County Cricket Club Board welcomes the ECB's long-term commitment to safeguarding First Class Cricket in the north-east."

An ECB spokesman said: "Today's decision to reinstate Hampshire was in line with the two-down, one-up relegation and promotion rules for this season's County Championship which were notified to all counties and published prior to start of the 2016 season."



Meg Lanning Steve Smith