England cricket chiefs have launched an action plan to transform women’s cricket, with the aim of making it a gender-balanced sport.
Funding of £20 million ($24m) will be provided over the next two years, with the ambition of investing £50 million over five years.
Forty full-time professional, domestic contracts will be funded in addition to the existing central contracts.
The plan focuses on five key objectives including increasing the number of women and girls playing cricket recreationally and boosting the profile of the women’s game through The Hundred and the England women’s team.
The Hundred, starting next year, will see eight women’s teams taking part in a new 100-ball competition alongside a separate event for men.
England’s women are the reigning world champions but were well beaten by Australia in this year’s Ashes competition.
England and Wales Cricket Board managing director of women’s cricket Clare Connor welcomed a coordinated approach.
“We have an amazing opportunity to make cricket the sport we want it to be – a sport that is modern, innovative and inclusive,” she said in a statement.
Connor told the Press Association: “Over the last five years, Australia have made similar investments which we are about to make.
“There’s no getting away from the fact we do need to close the gap, certainly around the number of female players who can make a living playing the game.”
England women’s captain Heather Knight said: “We need more young girls to be inspired to play and those young girls need to be able to see a clear pathway above them that encourages them to continue pursuing the game.”