THE 2020 county cricket season is to begin on August 1, with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) giving its approval for the launch of the professional game following the coronavirus pandemic.

The formats to be played during the delayed men's county season are due to be agreed by the 18 First Class Counties - including Somerset - in early July, with a new fixture schedule to be published thereafter.

There has also been a commitment to play women's domestic cricket in 2020, but this may differ from the planned rollout of the new women's elite domestic structure - the equivalent of the men's county set-up and formed of eight regions.

Preparation and planning for the men's and women's domestic seasons remains subject to government and medical advice, so ensure the safety of players, staff and officials.

With consideration for red-ball and white-ball matches to be made, a dedicated working group - with representatives from the First Class Counties and ECB - has been formed.

This group is has the following objectives:

"To develop a single set of operating procedures that will incorporate cricket operations, venue operations and medical protocols; to provide a single delivery model that can be implemented across all 18 First Class Counties and regional women’s teams; to provide feedback and progress to the ECB Board and FCC Chairs."

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said: “It is a significant step for our game that we are able to approve the start of the men’s domestic season for August 1, and one which will be welcomed by everyone connected with county cricket.

“It follows extensive consultation between the 18 First Class Counties, the Professionals Cricketers’ Association and ECB, and has only been achievable thanks to the significant hard work that continues to occur as we prepare for a domestic season unlike any the game has faced before.

“It must be stressed that the safety of our players, staff and officials has been the first priority through all discussions, and government guidance will continue to shape our planning and preparation.

“Planning for the return of the women’s domestic game remains ongoing, but our commitment to women’s domestic cricket is unwavering and we look forward to sharing further news shortly.

“Our strong preference is that the women’s new elite domestic structure starts this summer and we will work hard to ensure that happens.

"For this to be achieved, brand new infrastructure still needs to be rolled out, alongside imperatives we need in place when playing competitive cricket during a pandemic.

"Our first choice remains to do everything we can to start this year and build on the fantastic momentum in the women’s game.

"In the event that proves impossible, we will explore other options for play to enable our women’s players to enjoy competitive domestic cricket in 2020.

“We will continue to work closely with both the men’s and women’s domestic game to ensure necessary safety measures are in place to protect the wellbeing of everyone involved.”