Durham's punishment is harsh but fair, although the ECB need to look at Test match scheduling

Chris Tremlett
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Warwickshire v Durham - Specsavers County Championship: Division One - Day Three
Keaton Jennings scored more than 1,500 red-ball runs last season but could be playing in Division Two next season (Source: Getty)

It's sad to see what has happened to Durham. They’ve been in the top flight since 2006 and have won the County Championship three times in the last nine years – I feel really sorry for them.

There will be a lot of upset and angry players in that dressing room and I understand that, but on the whole I think the punishment handed out by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is fair. It’s harsh, but fair.

Durham have been demoted to Division Two after accepting a £3.8m financial rescue package – an advance on their 2017 central payment from the ECB – and will start next summer with a 48-point deficit.

Points have also been deducted in the T20 Blast and One-Day Cup, while the club has been stripped of its status as a Test match venue and must abide by a salary cap, determined by the ECB, until 2020.

One thing I would say is perhaps the ECB could look at the bidding system for Test matches. I really don’t think the scheduling this summer was great with back-to-back Test matches in the north.

England played Sri Lanka at Headingley and then a week later in Durham in May, and I believe common sense ought to have prevailed there.

When it’s not an Ashes series and the opposition are not top of billing in terms of their Test-match ranking, it can be hard to sell tickets at somewhere like Durham so early in the summer.

That would have been a potential money-spinner but I doubt that scheduling would have helped and in many respects it was a missed opportunity.

I do think the ECB could have a closer look at the calendar and put more thought into which locations get Test matches and at what stage of the season.

From a player’s perspective, there will be huge frustration. Stalwarts like skipper Paul Collingwood and former England seamer Graham Onions have played at the top level for a long time and will pride themselves on being Division One cricketers.

Take opener Keaton Jennings, he had a fantastic domestic campaign in 2016, scoring more than 1,500 first-class runs, and has ambitions of playing for England.

He earned an England Lions call-up this winter so his ability has been recognised, but if he stays at Durham, perhaps his run-scoring will be perceived in a different light with it being Division Two.

It’s exceptionally tough for the players, especially with their plight being the result of finances, which is not something they can effect.

The other issue is Hampshire’s reinstatement as a Division One side, having been relegated last term, ahead of Kent, who finished second behind Essex in Division Two.

With the restructuring of the game there was only one promotion place last term and I appreciate why Kent will feel aggrieved. I note they are seeking legal advice on their position.

I might be slightly biased given I’m Hampshire born and bred and they are my former club, but I also think the ECB have called that correctly too.

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