ICC Europe's thirty members have this week received confirmation of the share of the $US6 million in grants they will be receiving for 2009.

This figure includes funding from ICC in Dubai, but it also represents a trebling of money distributed through ICC Regional Funding Support by comparison with last year.

Adding in money from government sources, sponsorship and other non-ICC funding, the total resources available to Europe's Associate and Affiliate cricketers will amount to more than $US 14 million.

This substantial increase in development funding has been accompanied by new organisational procedures designed to give developing cricketing countries a more professional structure and better planning systems, and to ensure adequate accountability for the increasing levels of support which they receive.

The 2009 grants are the first tranche of an eight-year planning period which runs through to the year after the 2015 World Cup. The plan is for the amount available to increase by an average of 15% every two years through this eight-year period.

The new procedures also point towards the ICC's introduction of new membership rules from June 2010, which will create new demands, such as full-time administrative staff and, for the Associates, detailed Strategic Plans with a horizon of at least three years.

All thirty countries have been required for the first time this year to produce a detailed operational plan, prepared in consultation with ICC Europe, which sets out how they intend to allocate their resources for the year.

They were asked to provide an overall vision of cricket in their country, a mission statement, objectives for the period 2009-11, with key objectives identified, and then detailed plans for the present year.

The implementation of these plans will be monitored by ICC Europe's new Regional Support and Compliance Officer, Nathan Mackey, who takes up his post on 26 January. Associate members will be required to report on a quarterly basis, Affiliates every six months.

ICC Europe Regional Development Manager Richard Holdsworth is keen to emphasize that this process is centred on the countries' own development ambitions, and not on an ICC agenda beyond that of generating more professional management of cricket and supporting the development of the sport.

‘We asked the countries to set out what they wanted to do,' he said on Friday, ‘and then we discussed their proposals with them in order to ensure the most effective and equitable distribution of the money. The monitoring process will be a partnership between ICC Europe and the countries, and we'll adjust the plans as necessary as the year unfolds.'

Holdsworth's delight at the outcome is immediately obvious.

‘The countries have produced some fantastic plans, absolutely brilliant,' he said.

‘There's a strong emphasis on targeted youth player development, aimed at getting more junior cricketers playing more cricket, and on development of girls' and women's cricket – 27 of the 30 member countries have plans for some element of cricket for girls and women this year.

‘Then there are plans for huge improvements in facilities – everything from renewing artificial pitches to the laying of new turf squares, to the acquisition of nets and covers –, 59 coaching education and 18 umpiring courses, and a sizeable increase in administrative and coaching staff.'

Holdsworth's regional budget has doubled this year as a result of the ICC's greater investment in development, making ₤250k. available for the Regional Support Funding grants.

‘The changes really are very significant,' he says. ‘For instance, Europe's Affiliates are getting direct support from the ICC in Dubai this year, to the tune of $US 417k., the first time this has happened.'

For the leading Associates, the exact amounts they will receive from the ICC are in part performance-related: there are premiums to be allocated depending on where countries finish in the World Cup qualifying tournament in South Africa in April.

Overall, the twelve Associate countries stand to have $US 12.6m. available in 2009, with the eighteen Affiliates spending $US 1.5 m.

‘But the four High Performance countries account for $9m. of that sum,' Holdsworth points out, ‘so the remaining eight will have some $3.6m.

‘I'm confident that across the board the allocations constitute a fair reflection of need.'

Holdsworth hopes that among other things, the new funding and planning regimes will make it easier for Europe's top-ranked Affiliates to qualify for Associate status, while at the same time ensuring that the High Performance countries maintain and improve on their current standings.

With the World Cup qualifier, the first two tournaments of the next World Cricket League cycle, the start of the new edition of the Intercontinental Cup, and a busier-than-ever European tournament season – including senior Division 3, 4 and 5 competitions – all scheduled for 2009, there will be plenty of opportunities to measure on-field performance by Associates and Affiliates alike.