Cricket Participation on the Improve

15 Aug

In light of the recent story on BBC News - `Sport Participation Rises in Scotland` - where cricket was singled out for special mention, citing a 50% rise to 17,000 in the last 2 years, Cricket Scotland Head of Participation Ian Sandbrook has reflected on that story and the progress and challenges below. 

Firstly, this is a fantastic story for cricket. There are a huge number of positives around our game at the moment from great work happening at club level, female participation on the rise, exciting new schools programmes, to the success of our national men`s and women`s team competing at global events. There`s a lot for the cricketing community to be proud of and we need to keep shouting from the rooftops about this.

However, I think it`s important that there`s some clarity around the figures quoted in that story. After speaking with sportscotland what unfortunately wasn`t taken into consideration before it was released was the recalibration of figures for certain sports. We submit figures annually but a review process is conducted every 4 years of the process in line with our funding cycle with sportscotland. At the start of our previous cycle, cricket`s membership figures were only measured by 11 a-side, hardball cricket in clubs. However, with the changing nature of the sport, we felt this didn`t provide a true reflection of all the cricket that was played regularly in Scotland. We all know there are many modified formats and competitions that take place across the country, and in many cases this is where we are seeing the biggest growth in cricket. These participants are `cricketers` as well. They identify themselves as playing cricket, just not `traditional` club cricket. Therefore, our stats weren`t actually reflective of all those that were playing so this had to change. 

Sportscotland agreed with us and we now have a sub-set of our membership called `modified` that takes into account kwik cricket, schools modified competitions, indoor cricket, Last Man Stands etc. With the addition of these playing numbers in our recalibrated stats, we now had an increased figure compared to previous years, hence the 50% rise. The reality is the growth and expansion in cricket is taking place in modified formats often taking place outside the traditional club environment. This is reflective of changes in the way people engage with sport and if our clubs can grasp the opportunities this provides by being flexible and open-minded then they too will see the benefit of this growing interest. 

For people`s information our rounded participation figures are as follows: 

Club Cricket – 11,000 (senior and junior 11 a-side, hardball cricket)

Modified  - 6,000 (kwik cricket, schools competitions, indoor cricket, disability cricket, Last Man Stands, social leagues etc)

Involvement – 57,000 (those involved in school coaching programmes, holiday camps, health weeks, community sessions etc) 

To cut to the core of interpreting these figures and trends we have seen over the last few years, the following is a bit of a summary: 

  1. Traditional Club Cricket numbers have slightly dipped over the past 5 years

I think many of our clubs would identify with this trend. While overall the change has been a very small percentage this is still a worrying stat. However, there are great opportunities to reverse this as shown by the growing interest and participation in the sport overall. Again, we need to work with clubs to see the huge potential in taking advantage of modified formats to strengthen and safeguard their club for the future. 

As a generalisation, I would say that some long established clubs have seen numbers decline but this has been off-set by great growth in a number of new or traditionally smaller clubs e.g. Tranent, Glenrothes, Edinburgh South, East Renfrewshire, Callander, Galloway, East Lothian CCC etc. Therefore, the observation I make is that clubs can grow and thrive if their approach is right.

For me this is an important trend and one that informs our club development approach through the Thriving Clubs Programme. We want to help clubs to evolve their approach for their long term sustainability. As the famous Henry Ford saying goes: 

“If you always do what you`ve always done, you`ll always get what you`ve always got” 

We will strongly advocate that clubs are receptive to change, modern in their outlook, understand what their customers want, invest in youth, and align themselves with current sporting and social habits. This cultural shift is the key to unlocking the future potential of cricket club in Scotland. 

  1. 2.       Modified Formats are showing all our growth

I mentioned this above and it`s something we shouldn`t be scared of as a sport. Instead we should see it as a great opportunity and embrace the positives it can bring. For those traditionalists who challenge me regarding modified formats not being `proper` cricket, my reply is that Test cricket is the only `proper` form of cricket, everything else we`ve seen since is a modified format! Cricket has always changed and evolved, while still maintaining the great traditions of the sport, and that won`t change. We are just moving with the times and adapting to what people want. 

In embracing modified formats, not only do we bring new people into the game and grow cricket`s exposure, but if embraced by clubs and done well, we can help them transition some of those people into the traditional game. 

Understanding that sporting and social habits have changed significantly is crucial. The reality is that many people still want to play cricket or would play cricket but can`t give up their entire Saturday`s to play. We need to cater for that. There`s nothing wrong with someone just wanting to play indoor cricket or LMS on a Wednesday night for example. I`m convinced that if we expand our circle of new people being exposed to cricket through modified formats at times people want to play, then the core circle (club cricket) will get some natural leach and benefit from that. 

  1. 3.       Involvement numbers have grown significantly in the last 5 years

As part of our development programme we have had to try and raise the profile of cricket in Scotland. We need people, particularly youngsters, to see and experience cricket as much as possible to have a chance of attracting them to the sport. Cricket`s exposure at schools has tripled in the last 5 years through the Community Coaching Programme which we needed to do. The evolution of this is to now become more targeted in our approach, particularly at schools, and work with those that we have the best relationships with. Using exciting programmes like the Curriculum for Excellence programme to start the long-term embedding of cricket within schools and creating strong links for local clubs is the way forward. We will be concentrating our resources into those clubs and schools that want to make that happen and I`m convinced we will get the long term benefit if we do this together and in the right way. 

In summary, despite a number of challenges that we and all sports face, I believe cricket has plenty to be positive about. We are embracing new formats, growing female cricket, getting more youngsters into the game, working on creating great environments at our clubs – there is some real momentum building that we need to persevere with and it`s the responsibility of everyone involved in cricket to bring as many people along with us as possible. 

With the Scottish Cricket community working together I know we can continue to see an upward trend for cricket and reach our headline participation strategic goal of a 20% increase in committed participants by 2019. And to clarify what we mean by `committed participants` – that includes all our traditional club players but also all our modified formats. Basically, anyone playing in an organised cricket competition or event whatever the format.

If we do that then Scottish Cricket will be in very good health.


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