ECB Premier Leagues
In 1997 the ECB published "Raising the Standard", the ECB Management Board Blueprint for the Future Playing Structure of cricket. This introduced the concept of ECB Premier Leagues, designed to raise the playing standard of the top tier of club cricket and to bridge the gap between recreational cricket and the First Class game. A national network of Premier Leagues was established, with funding from the ECB. The Leagues have to meet the published ECB assessment criteria and they receive accreditation on an annual basis.
Premier Leagues are expected to establish links to other leagues in order to allow ambitious clubs to aspire to Premier League status over time. Many were based on existing leagues although some new Regional Premier Leagues were created. The ECB decided that overseas players are allowed to play in this top tier of club cricket provided that there is only one overseas player in any Premier League club team, which mirrors the arrangements for overseas players in the club cricket structures in countries such as Australia and South Africa.
The Premier League clubs must show a strong commitment to junior cricket and the assessment criteria explicitly require strong junior sections that can provide cricket coaching and matches for the next generation of cricketers. There is also an increased emphasis on practice and the development of skills for the adult players in Premier League clubs.