Andrew Gale believes a red ball Conference style competition could be good for the future of English cricket.

Yorkshire’s coach admits he has enjoyed this summer’s Bob Willis Trophy, which has seen three groups of six compete to reach a Lord’s final, which begins on Wednesday between Somerset and reigning county champions Essex.

Recent reports have suggested a number of format proposals are being discussed ahead of 2021, including retaining the two divisions in the County Championship and also a Conference system.

This year’s shortened Bob Willis Trophy was played in three regionalised groups – North, Central and South – in order to cut down on travel as a result of complications brought about by Coronavirus.

The two best placed group winners then advanced to the final after the five-game group stage, with Yorkshire winning the North Group and missing out on a trip to Lord’s.

The unbeaten White Rose lost 476 overs to weather across their three home games at Emerald Headingley, two of which were drawn. They won their other three games.

“I can’t say I’m a big fan of it being regionalised because you’ve seen us finish top of our group but be penalised for living in the North,” said Gale, Yorkshire’s former two-time County Championship-winning captain.

“But I like it (the Conference system).

“Maybe some form around the Conference system Martyn (Moxon) mentioned a few years back would be ideal.”

In early 2018, Moxon, Yorkshire’s director of cricket, and chief executive Mark Arthur put forward a proposal which would see groups formed by a seeding system based on the finishing position of the previous year’s County Championship.
Recent media reports have suggested a proposal for 14 four-day games for next season is on the agenda.

That would see 10 round-robin games played in three groups before play-offs through September culminating in a showpiece Lord’s final.

Discussing the merits of a Conference system, Gale said: “It doesn’t take the pressure off as such, but it just allows you a bit more breathing space.

“It also allows every team in the country to win the County Championship.

“It allows you to play a lot of your own talent without making short-term decision with the threat of relegation.

“We’ve all seen the short-term (overseas) signings a lot of the counties, including myself, have made – bringing players in for two or three games. And it hasn’t really worked.

“Being able to have the time to nurture your own players and have a look at them at first-class level (is a positive).

“One or two, like they have done this year, can prove to you they can do the job.

“It would allow us to produce more England players, and that can only be good for English cricket.”

In this season’s Bob Willis Trophy, Yorkshire handed first-class debuts to Jack Shutt, Dom Leech and George Hill, while all-rounder Jordan Thompson, 23, has significantly progressed his game, scoring 234 runs and taking 15 wickets.

A number of other counties have done similar given the inability to bring in overseas players as a result of a global pandemic and also the unavailability of many England players due to them needing to be in bio-secure bubbles for international matches and training camps.

Gale added: “I don’t want to sacrifice the 14 games. I think it’s a nice figure.

“I’ve always been a big advocate of 16 games. I used to like that. But, as a coach, 14 allows you to manage your bowlers a bit better. I wouldn’t want to drop to any less than that.

“I think it’s also good for the members as well. We haven’t played at Sussex or somewhere like Cardiff for donkey’s years in red ball cricket.

“I’m sure some of our members would love to go to those grounds.”

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