The LV = Insurance County Championship will revert to a two-division structure from next season, returning to the split that was expected to happen before the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The decision, voted on by First Class Counties after talks with the ECB, means Nottinghamshire will enter Division Two next year – although they finished third overall in 2021 and missed out on the title by a handful of points – and the Lancashire, Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire promotions 2019 will be held.
There will be ten teams in Division 1 and eight in Division Two, a decision that was agreed to in 2018, with each county playing 14 games. A ranking system is to be implemented in Division 1, where the two additional teams will form an asymmetric fixture list.
A return to two divisions had been widely anticipated after two summers during which Covid forced a restructuring. Last year was the first the championship has not been played since WWII, with the Bob Willis Trophy – featuring three regional groups and a final at Lord’s – taking its place in a truncated schedule.
In 2020, the teams were organized into three conferences, playing for qualification in one of three divisions. The Division 1 winners, Warwickshire, won the Championship pennant and went on to play in Lancashire for the Bob Willis Trophy.
One proposal that was submitted to the counties was that the conference system stay for another year – however, a vote on the issue last month was postponed, in the hopes that it would not reach the 12 votes required for pass.
The question of competing for the Bob Willis Trophy in 2022 is not yet resolved. The ECB is still in talks with Willis’ family on how best to continue celebrating the life of the former England fast bowler, with the event having been used to raise funds and raise awareness about prostate cancer, but it is unlikely to return at the end of the season’s match following the anticlimax of Warwickshire’s victory over Lancashire, which was the first time that first class cricket had been played in England in October since 1864.
Departmental Championship 2022
Division 1: Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Kent, Lancashire, Northamptonshire, Somerset, Surrey, Warwickshire, Yorkshire
Division 2: Durham, Derbyshire, Glamorgan, Leicestershire, Middlesex, Nottinghamshire, Sussex, Worcestershire
YorkshireWorcestershireWarwickshireSussexSurreySomersetNottinghamshireNorthamptonshireMiddlesexLeicestershireLancashireKentHampshireGloucestershireGlamorganEssexDurhamDerbyshireCounty ChampionshipBob Willis Trophy