ECB to pump £3m into Women's Cricket Super League
English cricket has made its biggest ever investment in the women's game by pledging £3m for a new six-team Super League, starting next summer.
The tournament will initially employ the T20 format and take place over a period of about two weeks.
The England and Wales Cricket Board is looking for venues, but these will not necessarily be current county grounds.
"Today marks a major step for the women's game in England," said ECB chief executive Tom Harrison.
The new tournament is set to mirror the Women's Big Bash League, which begins in Australia later this year.
The plan is to attract the world's best players to compete alongside England's leading female cricketers.
The ECB said as well as improving standards domestically, the move will aim to inspire more women and girls to take part in the sport, as well as providing more revenue opportunities through broadcasting and sponsorship.
Clare Connor, ECB director of England Women's Cricket, said the Women's Cricket Super League was "the next stage in the evolution of women's cricket in this country" following the introduction of central contracts last year.
Minister for Sport Tracey Crouch also welcomed the move as "a huge step forward for women's sport".
The £3m funding will pay for coaching and facilities as well as promotion of the competition and prize money over four years. It is the first time there has ever been prize money for domestic women's cricket in England.
Potential teams will be invited to make expressions of interest. "Any cricket-minded organisations will be able to submit a proposal to become a host for a Women's Cricket Super League team with the successful candidates confirmed by the end of the year," the ECB said.