HAMPSHIRE cricket has been awarded a professional women’s team from 2025 onwards to help secure the future of elite women’s cricket at the Utilita Bowl.

It comes as part of a restructuring aimed at delivering significant growth across the women’s game.

It is hoped that the move will help to increase attendance and raise the profile of domestic tournaments.

From 2025, eight counties will host elite tier-one teams in a move away from the existing regional structure with other counties participating in a further two tiers of competition.

Speaking to the Daily Echo, Southern Vipers head coach Charlotte Edwards admitted she is excited to see women's cricket being played at the Utilita Bowl for the "foreseeable future."

She said: "It's great news for us as a club. It is something that has been hanging over us for the last month.

"We've known this process has been in place, and we have desperately wanted to keep moving the club forward and have women's cricket attached to it. We're excited, and looking forward to it.

"Who knows what the next few months will bring? But to think we've secured that, and we know we're going to have women's cricket at this venue for the foreseeable future is great.

"Not just the players, but I think the people that come and watch us, and also young girls around this area."

The Utilita Bowl has been the hub for professional women’s cricket in the south since 2016, hosting the record-breaking Southern Vipers side.

The Vipers currently share the ground with Hampshire's men's side and have been fully integrated into operations at the venue.

Southern Vipers captain Georgia Adams hopes the announcement will help grow the women's game.

She told the Daily Echo: "Regional cricket has been pivotal in terms of producing cricketers ready to step up to play for England and we've seen that especially in the last couple of years.

"Now, the key area is growing the women's game and building the commerciality of it. 

"We now have a brand and a support network moving forward, and we will see more pro cricketers across the game. That could lead to more money in the game and bigger fan bases."

David Mann, who is the CEO of the Utilita Bowl, said: "To secure a tier one team at the Utilita Bowl is fantastic for the club and the venue.

"We have seen incredible support for our women’s teams over recent years and are proud of our work delivering success on and off the field.

"We are looking forward to building on their legacy as the sport enters a new era."

Southern Vipers begin the defence of their Rachael Heyhoe Flint trophy against the South East Stars on Saturday.