English cricket's 'Premier League' revolution
English cricket is ready to follow the example of football's Premier League as it heads for a revolution in which some of the long-established principles of the county game could be abandoned.
I learned the details of the plans for the future while watching Derbyshire play Leicestershire on a rain-interrupted day at a ground with probably no more than 100 people in attendance - but the future will be far different if the authors of the report get their way.
I have seen the 21-page document and I am staggered by what Surrey chairman David Stewart and MCC chief executive Keith Bradshaw - with the help of Hampshire and Lancashire - have produced.
Their blueprint has the hallmark of the documents that led to the creation of football's Premier League in England back at the start of the 1992 season.
Having read through the document, I can well understand why Leicestershire and Derbyshire - both of whom would be condemned to the margins of English cricket if these proposals were adopted - are so angry about the plans.
For all its faults, English cricket is an egalitarian body: 18 counties more or less equal in status with nothing like the inequalities that prevail in English football.
But if the proposals make it into reality, that state of affairs will definitely change.
The first, and most dramatic, change will see some of the old county identities - the bedrock of the English game for more than a century - discarded.
The document says that "teams' identities may be linked to cities, regions, grounds or counties".
The authors do not specifically talk of city-based franchises as happened in the Indian Premier League (IPL), but their wording makes it clear they have no objection to it.
"The New T20", as Stewart and Bradshaw call their brainchild, will be, they say, "a partnership between the new owner/investors and the owners of the nine Category A grounds".
These "nine grounds" are the stadia that are fit and ready to stage international cricket - Lord's, The Oval, Old Trafford, Edgbaston, Headingley, Trent Bridge, Chester-le-Street, the Swalec Stadium and the Rose Bowl.
The teams that play there will be new creatures, the likes of which English cricket has never seen before.
"A positive approach has been made by potential investors," continues the document.
"From their approach there is real interest for investment into a New T20 in England."
There is no direct mention of the identity of the investors, but the document does suggest they could be media and branded goods companies and rich individuals. These individuals might want to purchase trophy assets or simply be looking for a financial investment.
Stewart and Bradshaw certainly speak the language that the City would understand.
At one stage, the report speaks of potential investors as being "existing sports team owners looking to utilise synergies from owning multiple businesses".
Who do they have in mind? Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich perhaps? Or how about Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks?
The figures in the report make for fascinating reading.
The new plans are projected to bring in more money - between £300m and £450m - for the nine new teams.
The document also says that "owners/investors could receive an annual return on their investment through profits and/or see a capital return on their investment when selling their stake at a later date".
The New T20 company would be a partnership between the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the nine teams. It all sounds very much like the partnership between the Football Association and the old Division One that launched the Premier League in 1992.
In other words, the regulator and ruling body of English cricket would have to change its role and no longer sit on its own at the top table.
Instead, the ECB would sit alongside these new franchises and we all know from the example of the Premier League where that road can lead.
As for the actual cricket, the plan is to have a 25-day tournament comprising of 57 matches with each team playing between 12 and 14 matches.
Ideally, teams would play on a home and away basis with six home matches in 21 days.
The tournament is seen as English cricket's closest equivalent of a major championship, with group games being followed by a knock-out phase.
It would be played in the middle of the season - mid-June to mid-July - when no other first-class cricket is played anywhere in the world.
The report says each team would be "allocated local star players (Pietersen, Flintoff etc)", with other players available on an auction basis - much like the IPL - within a salary cap of £1.5m per team.
Squads of 15 or 16 would have to feature a minimum of three younger (Under-21 or Under-23) players and a minimum of 12 homegrown players.
A homegrown player will be one who has played at least three years in England or Wales between the ages of 15 and 21, a clear indication that the authors want to do away with the multitide of Kolpak players in the game.
The document says each of the nine teams will generate revenues of £7m, more than the income of most counties at present, and predicts broadcasting rights of £50m and first-year profits of £47m... but it might be more.
Yes, some of this money would go everyone in cricket including overseas boards but the main share would be to the new franchises, the ones that will completely reshape English cricket.
Having analysed its 21 pages, I would say that, as a City document, the report is great.
But I can see why the likes of Leicestershire and Derbyshire are so unhappy about it from a cricket perspective.
The content of the document could be the catalyst for the biggest revolution in English cricket history, and the mother of all battles between the haves and the have-nots of county cricket.