DURHAM have been selected as one of the eight counties that will have a tier one professional women’s team as part of a major restructure of the female game.

However, Yorkshire have been overlooked in the initial restructure and will have to wait until 2027, when an expansion programme will see them admitted to the tier-one system.

An extensive bidding process resulted in Durham being awarded one of the initial top-tier contracts, along with Essex, Hampshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Surrey, Somerset and Warwickshire. The eight sides will form the new professional structure which will be in place from the 2025 season onwards.

The decision to award Durham professional women’s status comes just over 30 years after the professional men’s game came to the North-East.

Durham Cricket chief executive, Tim Bostock, said: “This is a monumental moment in the history of Durham Cricket and women’s sport in the region. The bidding process was extremely competitive, but we were confident the North-East was the right place for one of the teams and that we had delivered a bid that demonstrated our ability and enthusiasm to bring a team here.”

“This is a huge opportunity to develop the game across the region and it will also bring a huge economic boost to the club and the county. The financial investment will be considerable both on and off the pitch and is set to create over 30 new jobs and bring new commercial opportunities.”

The new women’s team will play their first games in the summer of 2025, and for the duration of the 2025-2028 seasons, all three tiers will be ‘closed’, with no promotion or relegation.

However, in 2027, Yorkshire and Glamorgan are set to receive tier-one status as part of an expansion of the top-flight. The ECB has also indicated that it intends to add a further two teams in 2029.

Durham’s director of cricket, Marcus North, said: “We are absolutely delighted to bring professional women’s sport to the region. This will allow us to grow the game exponentially and is a huge boost to female cricketers and sports enthusiasts across the region. It’s a huge endorsement of the pathway we already have at Durham and the potential of the region.”

The new three-tier structure aims to build on the impact of the existing regional model, which sees the Northern Diamonds play some of their home games at Chester-le-Street.

The eight selected counties will replace the regions that have competed in the Charlotte Edwards Cup and Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy in recent years, and there will be £8m of new funding every year for the women's domestic game by 2027, taking annual investment to around £19m.

Durham’s head of female talent pathway, said: “As with the men’s team 30 years ago, this is a game changing moment for women’s cricket. Our pathway is now complete, girls can aspire to play the sport they love professionally in their home County. We can’t wait to get started and see some of our homegrown talent play professionally as Seat Unique Riverside.”