What grassroots cricketers have to say about the state of the game
Cricket has often been lauded as the quintessential British pastime and, for those of us who adore the game, of course we agree. There are plenty of people, however, who think that the sport we love is dwindling in popularity and we need to act fast in order to save our game from stagnation.
According to Google Trends, English cricket hasn’t be able to capitalise on the spike in interest in the sport following the national team’s World Cup victory against New Zealand. While interest in the sport was at its peak in the summer of 2019, the following years have seen interest in cricket dwindle, a circumstance likely not helped by the Covid pandemic the following year.
Obviously, cricket is a passion that is close to our hearts. At Village Cricket Co. we want to find out exactly what it is we need to do as a collective in order to make the rest of the country fall in love with the sport that we hold so dear. So to achieve that goal, we went straight to the source: our nation’s grassroots cricketers themselves.
We asked over 1,000 cricketers across England for their experiences in the game, what frustrates them, and most importantly: what do they think we need to do to encourage other’s to take up cricket? The answers we got back were plentiful, insightful, and occasionally hilarious.
This question was open-ended and we provided no cues for the answers could be, so we weren’t putting words in people’s mouths. From our pool of responses, we identified the key themes that were consistently brought up from what people had to say.
Here are what today’s cricketers think that the major problems are with cricket:
|In your opinion, what more could be done to encourage more people to take up cricket?||Responses||%|
In this article, we’re going to discuss each of the top responses in a little more detail, to see if we can shed some light about what needs to be done.
Rightly or wrongly, cricket is seen by many as a ‘posh’ sport.
If Freddie Flintoff’s Field of Dreams programme on the BBC is anything to go by, cricket appears to be missing from the vast majority of state schools altogether, with plenty of kids never having seen a set of wickets with their own eyes. But why is that?
The cost of equipment seems to be the largest barrier to entry. Cricket lacks the ‘jumpers of goalposts’ mentally you see with football, with some bats costing upwards of £500.
When we asked cricketers what they think needs to be done to encourage more people to take up the sport, the answer we saw pop up the most was affordability. In fact, 1 in 4 pointed it out without prompting.
According to our research, playing cricket can cost £373 per year on average. An eye-watering figure, especially in the cost of living crisis we currently find ourselves in.
How did we come to this figure? Let us break it down for you…
Cost of an annual cricket club membership – £66
On average, the cost of an annual membership at a cricket club is £66 per year.
The results vary wildly for this question, as many clubs won’t charge a penny for the entire year and let teams pay game-by-game, whereas other’s will charge a large fee and make all games inclusive in the price. The rest adopt a little of both options!
According to our survey, 8 in 10 cricketers paid less than £100 per year for their memberships, while almost half paid less than £50.
We did, however, see that one club charged as much as £1500 for the yearly fee, with an additional £15 per game played. We deeply regret our decision not to inquire as to whether they provided a champaign drinking fountain as compensation.
|What is the cost of annual membership at your club?||Responses||%|
Obviously, with inflation on the rise we thought it wise to ask the question as to whether cricketers were seeing a similar pinch in their finances when it came to club memberships, though we were pleasantly surprised by the results.
17 out of 20 cricketers saw no change higher than £20 to their membership fees, with almost half seeing no change at all.
|Has the price of membership changed in the last 5 years? If so, by how much?||Responses||%|
|Increased by a little (under £20)||421||38.38%|
|Increased by a lot (over £20)||108||9.85%|
|Decreased by a little (under £20)||39||3.56%|
|Decreased by a lot (over £20)||16||1.46%|
Encouragingly, we were told some clubs have scrapped or reduced membership fees in light of the current financial issues in the UK.
Cost of cricket equipment per year – £160
On average, the cost of purchasing new equipment every year to play cricket is £160.
A consistently recurring theme in our survey was the demand for cheaper quality cricket equipment, with two-thirds of cricketers saying they pay over £100 for equipment each year.
|Roughly, how much do you spend on cricket equipment per year?||Answers||%|
|Less than £100||382||34.73%|
We suspected this was the case, so we asked a followup question, what is the oldest piece of equipment that you own? The results were interesting to say the least.
The average piece of equipment sees 11 years of action before it’s replaced. While that might be understandable for things like rollers or wickets, things like the clothes that people play are worn for an average of 16 years! That’s got to be unhygienic to say the least…
|What is the oldest piece of equipment you own? How old is it?||Answers||%||Average Age|
Bat’s were the favourite in this category, notching up 11 years before they’re replaced, likely due to the price of doing so! If your bat is a little worse for wear and you’re looking for a cheaper quality alternative, why not check out one of our Village Cricket Co bats?
Matches per year – £147
On average, the cost of matches across the year is £147. We took the average cost per match (£7) and multiplying it by the average number of matches played (21) to come to this figure.
For the cost per match, 6 in 10 cricketers were paying less than £10 for a game – the average of £7 per game.
|Cost per match||Answers||%|
With the weather we’re subjected to in England, we also thought we better ask participants how many games they manage to squeeze into the year.
A large portion saying “as many as I possible can”, the average seemed to settle at 21. Which makes sense, give the amount of sun we have to play with at any given time in this country!
|Roughly, how many games of cricket do you play per year?||Answers||%|
So overall, almost 4 out of 5 cricketers manage to get over 10 games in during the calendar year!
Yearly cost of playing cricket – £373
So to sum up, that’s:
- £66 for an annual membership
- £160 for new equipment
- £147 for your yearly matches
Bare in mind this is before you even consider the cost of travelling to and from games and other expenses – you can see why affordability is a massive issue for so many cricketers!
Youth Participation & Diversity
The second most popular answer for cricketers was the issue of youth participation, in most cases, lackthereof!
Typically, answers surrounding youth participation were centred around the massive need for cricket to be pushed more in schools.
Youth Participation – schools and coaching
One participant said he’d like to see “increased organisation of in-school cricket (after-schools clubs and inter-school competitions)” to encourage children into the sport, and potentially local clubs.
Another noted that they would like to see “more advertising at school level for their local clubs” in an effort to bridge the gap between the two and show kids that it’s possible to play competitive cricket outside of the school setting.
While increased young participation in clubs was an issue for some, the overall majority have stated it’s not as much as an issue for them. When asked directly almost 7 in 10 participants stated that they’ve seen an increase in children playing cricket within the local area.
|Have you seen more or less kids taking up cricket in your club/area?||Responses||%|
|A few more||391||35.58%|
|A lot more||365||33.21%|
|A bit less||145||13.19%|
|A lot less||86||7.83%|
While there may be a decent amount of younger cricket goers trying their hand at the sport, a common issue that people raised was a lack of coaching for them.
One participant said that he wanted to see “more cricket coaching programs for childrens to promote cricket and reduce the price for coaching for younger generation” while other’s pointed out an ever-widening gap between the junior and senior skill levels.
Diversity – female and BAME participation
Cricket isn’t the only sport with a diversity problem, but it’s readily apparent that more needs to be done in order to make more people feel included.
In a summer that saw the England women’s football team win the Euros, many are asking what can be done to increase female participation in cricket?
Some think that “clubs need to work on greater inclusively” and put their focus into both creating a women’s team (if they haven’t already) and promoting it to the wider public. Other’s believe that mixed gender teams is the right approach.
The same is true for black and minority ethnic groups, who are underrespresented in traditional cricket clubs thanks to a largely middle class cohort. It is felt more needs to be done in order to encourage people from diverse backgrounds to join in and feel welcome.
It was summed up best by one participant who said: “attitudes need to change if we are to become a great cricket family”.
Improved Funding & Awareness
One in ten cricketers think that we need to see an increase in funding for local cricket and almost a fifth of participants think that more needs to be done to awareness – both around the sport and for the promotion of local clubs.
Improved Funding – more facilities and grassroots support
A very common bugbear for most cricketers is the state their club is actually in. Many have fallen into disrepair thanks to a sheer lack of funding from local councils while some have been abandoned altogether.
One participant said that he’d like to see “additional funding for clubs to make subs or match fees lower” which again links back to our point on the affordability of cricket. Many clubs need to charge high fees in order to keep the lights on, but unfortunately, this can have a knock on effect that could discourage the less-well-off from taking up the sport.
Awareness – local promotion and TV
Many cricketers feel like their local club doesn’t do enough to advertise themselves – with many pointing to their marketing as unsatisfactory, particularly on social media!
One participant talked about the need to make “people more aware of all of the cricket clubs out there who are always looking for new players and are very welcoming no matter how much talent they have”.
A huge amount of responses were linked to the sheer lack of options to watch cricket on free-to-air channels, which many believed was providing a massive barrier to entry.
We asked our cricketers how they tend to watch cricket, whether it’s Test Cricket, County T20, County Championship, The Hundred or the IPL.
|Do you watch any professional cricket on TV or in person? [Test Cricket]||Responses||%|
|Follow it online (e.g. BBC Updates)||519||48.28%|
|Do you watch any professional cricket on TV or in person? [County T20]||Responses||%|
|Follow it online (e.g. BBC Updates)||524||55.74%|
|Do you watch any professional cricket on TV or in person? [County Championship]||Responses||%|
|Follow it online (e.g. BBC Updates)||634||71.88%|
|Do you watch any professional cricket on TV or in person? [The Hundred]||Responses||%|
|Follow it online (e.g. BBC Updates)||348||39.64%|
|Do you watch any professional cricket on TV or in person? [IPL]||Responses||%|
|Follow it online (e.g. BBC Updates)||348||43.83%|
Interestly, the only format where TV wasn’t in the top percentile was the County Championship – rarely found on terrestrial TV.
Game Length & Time Options
It’s becoming readily apparent that people are looking for a bit of a change from the traditional ways of doing things – both to entice a wider audience but also to appease the lives of current players who don’t much like doing things ‘the way they’ve always been done’ anymore!
Game Length – to shorten or not to shorten?
A common point of contention amongst cricketers is the age old debate of ‘do we need to make the games shorter?’
While many will swear that the long form is just that much more enjoyable and it’s what they’re used to, a large portion of the cricket community will concede that in order to get more people interested in the sport, we need to reduce the amount of time it takes to play a game – with many people pointing to the success of T20!
One participant said he wanted to see ”more variety of games/type of match” and that there was “more interest in shorter format (T20) than in the more ‘traditional’ village games of 80-90 overs with winning/losing/draws and all the complicated points that entails”.
Time Options – how late is too late?
Another key issue for people playing cricket is their start times, with several people pointing out that matches start a bit too late and rob them of everything else they intended to do that day.
One participant said that something needs to be done, whether it be midweek or earlier weekend games, in order to cater “for those that cant take a whole day out of their weekend”.
When asked what time do your matches generally start, the overwhelming majority of participants saw their games start between 12pm – 1pm.
|What time do your club’s matches generally start?||Responses||%|
Though when asked what they’d like to see brought in, several would like the games brought forward so they could squeeze in a game of cricket before spending their weekend with family and friends!
More Involvement & Social Events
Finally, most cricketers want to see more being done in order to get the local community involved in their clubs – whether that be new players or simply encouraging families to come along and watch the games.
Plenty of suggestions centred around encouraging an atmosphere at clubs that promotes taking part no matter your skill level. Sadly, one person noted that “one club I went to made me feel so unwelcome I left half way through season” which shows just how important it is to promote an open and encouraging environment – otherwise all you’ll do is put off potential players.
One participant mentioned that “we need to use the social aspect as a way in for people. To show how clubs benefit and are rooted in local community by inviting more groups of under represented people to see the club”.
A common recurring them was for a wider emphasis on the social aspect of the game. Not to just play the game, but also, have BBQs after to encourage team bonding and for families to socialise away from the stands. A lot of people seem to miss the inclusion of teas at games, as many were stopped due to covid but have yet to make a return.
Have your say
Do you agree with our findings from the survey? Do you think we’ve missed out a glaringly obvious point? Want to expand on any of the points mentioned?
Whatever your feelings on our study, feel free to drop us an email and we’ll take it into consideration. The more people that chip in with their experiences of cricket the more vital information we can include in the future!