Cricket Fans have had their say in our biggest fan survey yet

  • 63% of cricket fans feel negatively about The Hundred
  • 43% of cricket fans intend to watch more cricket compared to 2019
  • 33% of fans are more engaged with cricket now than in 2019
  • 94% think the lack of priority for county championship will impact Test Cricket
  • 93% believe all ICC Tournaments should have an element of FTA
  • Only 22% of fans believe the ECB considers fans when making decisions

Thank you to everyone of you who completed the survey. Cricket Fans have had their say and you’ve let us know what you think and the importance of county cricket, concern over The Hundred, the desire for more cricket free to air and a positive outlook in terms of engagement with the game all came across clearly.

With responses from over 3,000 of you of all ages, the independent survey offered you the chance to have your say on what’s happening within the game and this is what you said:

The Hundred continues to be a concern for existing fans with 63% expressing negative feelings towards the new format, only 20% of fans feel positive and are looking forward to it and 26% remain openminded. 

The discontentment around The Hundred includes the impact on the existing county structure (50%). It should also be noted that the younger audience are keener on the new competition with 37% of 16–24-year-olds feeling positive, 36% of the same age group feeling negative and 33% undecided.

With the latest survey results revealing such negativity amongst cricket fans, the Cricket Supporters’ Association is calling for increased transparency and openness about The Hundred and looking for an understanding as to what success looks like and how the new format will be evaluated by the ECB.

As commented by Becky Fairlie-Clarke, CEO of the Cricket Supporters’ Association, “It has been clear since launch that The Hundred isn’t popular amongst many cricket fans. Despite these concerns, the competition is going ahead and so we as an organisation would like to know what success for The Hundred is going to be. The rationale behind The Hundred is all about growing the game and so all we want to know is what this growth looks like, what are the links to driving participation and engagement with the existing county teams and with cricket as a whole and how will these be measured?”

A desire for transparency and for the involvement of us fans in decision making is apparent across the board, as 92% of fans would like to be given the opportunity to view the research used by the governing bodies to make decisions about the game.

Only 22% of fans think that the ECB considers existing fans when making decisions and 81% of fans would like to be given the opportunity to work with the ECB in terms of sharing their experiences and knowledge for the survival of the game.

Positively, the survey also revealed that of those of you that play, 41% intend to play more cricket this season compared to 2019 (we chose to ask about 2019 due to the impact of the pandemic on the 2020 season), 43% of cricket fans intend to watch more cricket and 33% of fans are more engaged with cricket than in 2019.

In terms of how they engage, Channel 4 was the most popular broadcaster at 31% although YouTube and live streaming are also very popular. Interestingly, 17% took out a paid for TV subscription to watch cricket over the last 12 months and 68% of them will be maintaining this subscription moving forward.

Free to Air is still an important issue and 93% would like to see all ICC Tournaments have some element of Free to Air either on TV or online. The importance of the broadcast revenue in the game isn’t underrated by fans with 68% believing that cricket needs the broadcast revenue from the likes of Sky to sustain and invest in the game.

The importance of county cricket and its relationship to Test cricket in the eyes of fans also came strongly across as 98% think the County Championship is the breeding ground for future England test players whilst 94% are worried the County Championship is not being prioritised enough so that it can be an effective breeding ground for future England players.

Scheduling is a continual hot topic, and it was mixed in terms of responses on the overall fixture scheduling for the 2021 domestic professional season with 40% happy and 45% unhappy. However, in terms of priorities for 2022 and the summer months, it is clear that Test Matches (23%), County Championship (22%), T20Blast and ODI’s (both on 13%) are the priorities.

Fairlie-Clarke of the CSA continued, “Fans realise how difficult the past year has been for the ECB and the game and acknowledge the amount of work behind the scenes. We are simply asking for fans to have a voice within cricket, to be part of the process and be asked when decisions about the sport are being made. As football is showing, fans aren’t the enemy and our experience, knowledge and insight should be utilised for the good of cricket.”

Next steps for the CSA:

  1. Survey response from the ECB on all points raised including the accountability of The Hundred
  2. Campaigning on the importance of all formats of cricket
  3. Campaigning for  County Members to get onto County Boards and Committees
  4. Continuing our work in equality, inclusion and diversity through Every Cricket Fan
  5. Following up on request for fans to be consulted as the scheduling of the domestic 2022 season is discussed

About the Survey:

The 15-minute online survey was created by the Cricket Supporters’ Association. The survey was open to all cricket fans to complete and designed to understand the current opinion of cricket fans (of all ages) across England and Wales. The survey was accessible via and was shared via the CSA’s official social media channels, through the CSA newsletter database, through various media and stakeholder social media channels and through media relations.

The survey had over 3,000 responses, providing insight into both fans’ behaviour and engagement with cricket, as well as attitudes towards the current ‘hot topics’ surrounding the game and how it moves forward. All those who took part in the survey were 16 years old or older.


New partnership with Leicestershire CCC

Leicestershire County Cricket Club and the Cricket Supporters’ Association launch the BIG Cricket Survey

 We are super excited to be announcing this new relationship with Leicestershire CCC as part of our Every Cricket Fan initiative. This ground breaking partnership is designed to ask everyone across the county of Leicestershire what they think about cricket.

The BIG cricket survey and research project forms part of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion work at Leicestershire CCC which is focusing on ensuring the club is a safe place for fans, players, and staff no matter what your background, sexual orientation, faith, race, or other characteristic and is undertaking work to create the #foxesfamily. To assist in moving this forward, the research will generate knowledge and understanding as to where cricket sits as a sport amongst the 56 nationalities found within the county.

The survey – FOUND HERE – is designed to look at all aspects of the game to gain a whole understanding of where cricket sits across all communities. The survey focuses on improving the understanding of how sport and cricket fits within the communities and wider society, as well as looking at the situation for individuals and within family structures. Barriers will also be examined to understand how entry and experiences impact on both a participation and spectator level.

Leicestershire County Cricket Club CEO Sean Jarvis said: “This survey is incredibly important to us, to not only engage with the diverse communities across the county, but for us to improve our understanding of how they interact and participate with cricket. 

“All views shared in the survey will help shape the future of what we do here at the club and so we are asking everyone to share it as widely as possible, within your communities, to encourage as many people as possible to complete the survey. Leicestershire CCC is a club for everyone, and we are committed to improving our engagement with residents”.

Becky Fairlie-Clarke, CEO of the Cricket Supporters’ Association added, “We are over the moon to have partnered up with Leicestershire CCC and it is clear that Sean and his team are very focused on not only finding out how existing fans engage with the game but also seeking to understand what potential or new fans think and how they can make sure this new audience feels included, welcomed and part of the #foxesfamily.The research will help draw out insight and knowledge to be used across all of the work at Leicestershire CCC and at Grace Road.”

Please take the SURVEY and share amongst your family and friends whether they love the game or not. It’s only by gaining as many responses as possible from people across Leicestershire that we can create a true picture.


What matters to you? Let us know for the next survey – going live this month

The survey is designed to focus on what matters to all cricket fans – whether you are an avid fan who likes are formats of the game, county cricket champions or those who love the shorter versions – and this is your chance to get involved in what is included in the latest survey from the very beginning.

We want to ensure we cover everything that you find yourself tweeting about, talking about with your mates or thinking about when out for a walk.


All we want here is to know if you think there is anything else we should be including in the survey as we write it.

Topics so far include:

Fans intentions – are you intending to come back to cricket? Watch in ground / engagement on screen, papers, or broadcast / membership of cricket organisations / play cricket – how much time / less or more than previously and the reasons behind where fans are at

Will also have to look at pandemic implications here – for example not attending matches due to travelling on public transport / or not being sure because don’t know how it will look / not being able to sit with friends etc

County membership – are you a member / are you considering becoming a member? Have you given up your membership this season and the reasons behind this?

TV Rights – looking at Free to Air – Channel 4 / highlight packages on BBC but also subscription services – what is paid for / feelings towards cricket being on the likes of BT Sport / Sky / Amazon Prime etc and is this good or bad for the fan? Talking about broadcast money and the impact that has on cricket

Ticket prices – discussion on ticket prices (for this season i.e., International matches) and what prepared to pay

Scheduling – looking at how this season has shaped up for men and women’s first-class cricket – the impact on the different competitions / what you would have liked to see / long term discussion on counties

The Hundred – how are you feeling about the new competition / have you purchased tickets / do you have a team? Impact of The Hundred on existing fan engagement with the game

Diversity and inclusion – understanding of how welcoming and accessible you’ve found your experiences of cricket and if you’d be interested in finding out more on our Every Cricket Fan initiative

Tours – how interested are you in going overseas to watch England play if you can do so?

County Championship 2022 – what you’d like to see in 2022, what you will go to watch and when

Freedom on Information – are you keen to understand more about how decisions are made by the governing bodies and the research behind it?

Role of the fan – seat at the table / the role of the CSA and why it’s important we work together as a community to grow numbers and so grow our voice within the game

Got something to add or say – please do so in the Comments section below or email us at

Whilst you are here, don’t forget to join up to the Cricket Supporters’ Association so we can tell you when the survey is live. It’s free to join – just click here:




Every Cricket Fan – our work within the LGBT community and the Rainbow Laces campaign

As part of the Every Cricket Fan diversity and inclusion initiative, we have formed a Guidance Council which supervises all activity and consists of the best minds and interests within society.

We are so proud that Tracy Brown, Co-Chair of Chelsea Pride, the Official LGBT Supporters Group for Chelsea Football Club and cricket fan is part of Council and to celebrate the work we are doing within the LGBT Community, Tracy has written a short blog about her experiences within sport, why cricket needs to take stock and what we are trying to achieve:

“Currently the Stonewall Rainbow Laces campaign is under way and this year the campaign is celebrating the impact sport has on LGBT people, and the impact that LGBT people have on sport.

We can all play our part in making sport everyone’s game. For me it’s about being my Authentic Self. I come out when I was just 16 years old, wow that seems a world away now, but the world was different back then.

From a young age I always wanted to help others and make a difference. I had a family that supported me when I come out, and most friends remained friends with me but not all. That was hard to face back then and I soon realized that not everyone would support my choice to be open and honest about my sexuality.

In no way was I ever going to go back into the closet and so instead I took the negative feedback and used it to push my desire to want to give back and help others. Back then it was a voluntary role for an Aids Charity. But as I got older, I wanted to take all I had gone through and support others in an even bigger way.

I started doing more voluntary work within the LGBT community, I knew that many needed help and support and this was more often than not just someone to speak to, to support them, to be a friend and an ally. But my love for sport was always there and I wanted to bring those two worlds’ together. So along with a friend who was a Portsmouth FC fan I helped her set up Fratton Fever the official LGBT supporters’ group for the club. It was a way of bringing LGBT fans together for Football.

This was amazing but my true love was Chelsea and so in 2016, I set up Chelsea Pride and this journey has changed my life completely and in such a positive way. My desire to promote Equality Diversity and Inclusion has now something I live by every day. My work with Chelsea Pride, Chelsea Football Club, other Supporters groups and organisations drive me to keep pushing for positive change and my pledge is to keep that work going.

Now let’s go back to why we have the Rainbow Laces campaign at all. It’s because we have Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia in sport. This drives me as an openly gay women who has had homophobic comments said directly to me at football to educate and promote positive change across Society. I know I can’t change that by myself, it takes all of us within the LGBT community and more widely our allies to see real change happen. The power our allies have is massive and that’s why I’ve linked up with the Cricket Supporters’ Association in the work they are doing.

I have never had direct homophobic comments said to me at cricket. But it does exist, from gay comments made to players to songs and chants from the stands. Banter is the word thrown around when it comes to discrimination however it’s not banter. Not even close. Imagining loving a sport so much but not feeling comfortable going to watch it live. Feeling unsure about whether it is a game for you because of what you will hear coming from other fans or from the players?

The Women’s game seems to be strides ahead of the Men’s game. Diversity and inclusion within the women’s game is more visible. We have players who are open about the sexuality and about being part of the LGBT community. There is a power in being out and that then leads to supporters feeling as if they belong.

The Men’s game though is lacking in these same areas. Football, cricket and beyond. We don’t have the same openness in the men’s game. This is where I would love to drive change. That change needs to happen, however I don’t believe in the men’s game it will until we get fans to fight against discrimination, that’s all forms of discrimination. Its’ time to challenge those who are homophobic, bi-phobic, transphobic, racist.

It’s time to push for change, to push to our full potential and be our authentic selves. If we can all do this together it will mean, we open the sporting world up to those who don’t consider it somewhere they can be themselves and somewhere they feel safe.

So together let’s fight against discrimination and promote a world where sport is for all.”

With huge thanks to Tracy for letting us know her thoughts and for joining up with us on Every Cricket Fan. We are already putting together research to find out what the feelings are and experiences had amongst the LGBTQ+ community towards cricket, as well as working with a newly formed LGBT cricket team and are very proud to be supporting the Rainbow Laces campaign.




Launch of the International Cricket Supporters’ Committee

We are super chuffed to announce that the Cricket Supporters’ Association (CSA) in partnership with England’s Barmy Army have launched the International Cricket Supporters’ Committee (ICSC) which will bring together cricket fans from across the globe through the various national fan groups and associations to give a global fan viewpoint and voice in the game as well as sharing best practices and experience.

Aside from the Barmy Army and ourselves, current members of the newly formed ICSC include the Bharat Army, Stani Army, Bangladesh Cricket Supporters’ Association (BCSA), The Riches, Gwijo Squad, Beige Brigade, Gayan Senanayaka Cricket Supporters’ Association (Sri Lanka) and the Caribbean Cricket Podcast community. And we are hoping that this will grow to include more national cricket supporting communities after launch.

The idea behind the International Cricket Supporters’ Committee is a simple one, as Becky of the CSA says, “We believe wholeheartedly that fans have an integral and positive role to play in the game. Fans and their representative organisations can offer their insight, experience, and opinions as to how the game survives and prospers and by coming together ensure cricket is a meaningful part of societies across the world. We know from conversations with other fan groups that they feel the same and so forming a Committee seemed the ideal way for us to start talking together from a global viewpoint. We are so pleased with the number of organisations signed up already and are openly looking for other national fan groups to apply.”

Chris Millard, Managing Director of the Barmy Army continues, “Every fan group has their own experiences and their own issues but many are also shared across the world. At the Barmy Army we have 25 years of touring knowledge across all the cricket playing nations, we wanted to share this with other like-minded organisations. The ICSC will look at everything from ticket prices, to scheduling to best practice in terms of racism, travelling overseas and diversity. We will also be looking at fan experiences and engagement and what works across different communities. By founding this committee, we are excited to be able to share knowledge and expertise and to bring together a community of cricket fans from across the world under one umbrella organisation.”

With the fans organisations involved totalling over 1 million cricket fans across the globe, the International Cricket Supporters’ Committee will through surveys, committee meetings, open forums and the opportunity raise questions and concerns whenever and wherever, be able to act as the conduit between the ICC and other global stakeholders within the game and cricket fans.

Central to the new Committee is the ethos that all fans should have equal rights and that cricket should be accessible, safe, and welcoming for each and every fan of the game.

Sign up to the ICSC is free but member groups do need to qualify and be verified. If interested please email us at or go to


Latest full survey results revealed – what did you say?

With over 2,500 responses, our latest survey has provided insight into not only how you feel about cricket but also your attitudes towards the current ‘hot topics’ surrounding the game and how it moves forward.

The Hundred, Free to Air for ICC Tournaments and Test Cricket and the role fans can play alongside the ECB were all stand out stats.

  • 95% of respondents want to see some element of all ICC Tournaments Free to Air (online or TV)
  • Only 12% of fans surveyed showed an intention to watch The Hundred live and 29% said they would watch it on TV or online
  • 41% of fans are concerned that there will be no meaningful county cricket during the height of the summer
  • 65% of cricket supporters don’t think the ECB considers existing fans when making important decisions
  • 90% of fans agreed that ‘supporters need to be given the opportunity to work with the ECB to assist in keeping the game relevant’
  • 78% have played at least the same amount of cricket this season as last

The independent survey covered a broad range of topics and highlighted the range of opinion amongst cricket fans, however there were some areas where fans generally agree. Perhaps most starkly is the commonly held thought that the ECB needs to develop the opportunities in which they work with cricket fans in keeping the game relevant (90% of fans agreed with this sentiment), whilst 65% of cricket supporters don’t think the ECB considers existing fans when making important decisions. 55% also disagree that the ECB are looking after the best interests of cricket.

There is general agreement amongst fans that cricket needs to evolve for future generations to play and watch the game (56%) and 53% agreed that cricket needs to evolve to remain relevant. How it does this of course is a polarising issue, with The Hundred drawing a broad range of opinions. Only 12% of fans surveyed showed an intention to watch The Hundred at a ground but this rose to 28% for 16-24 year olds. Slightly more intend to watch online or on TV, with the average figure at 29% but this again rose to 53% for 16-24 year olds and fell to 13% for 65-74 year olds.

Fans do have grave concerns around the new tournament, with 52% thinking that it will have a negative impact on the existing county structure and 41% of fans are concerned that there will be no meaningful county cricket at the height of the summer. 47% don’t believe in the rationale behind the competition and anecdotally the research found many felt a general lack of information about The Hundred made them unable to comment.

Another stand out area is the desire for some cricket to be shown Free to Air with 95% of respondents agreeing that all ICC Tournaments should have some element of free to air coverage (online or broadcast). This desire for some elements of Free to Air coverage is felt across all forms of cricket with Test cricket (the favoured form of the game across the survey) the most preferred option at 76%. ODI’s followed at 59%, T20 Internationals at 44% and Vitality T20 Blast at 36%, although with the Blast this did rise to 41% amongst the 16-24 age bracket.

The exclusivity of the game either through Free to Air or the price of tickets is another consideration factor. 45% of fans consider cricket good value for money compared to watching other live sport and only just over half willing to spend over £50 on a single international match ticket (this figure is down to 40% for the 16-24 year old bracket). Domestically 44% are prepared to spend between £20-£50 on a single Vitality Blast Ticket and that percentage figure goes down further with the Royal London One Day Cup (42%) and 32% for the Specsavers County Championship.

It’s clear that there is strong sentiment amongst you all for fans to be part of the consideration process and so working with the stakeholders within the game is key to what we are trying to achieve. We know that you, the cricket fan, has a lot to offer in terms of the prosperity and growth of the game and this passion and enthusiasm should be utilised and not taken for granted.

For us to be successful, we need to continue to grow and grow across all communities, ages and genders. We want to represent cricket fans from across the spectrum and for all fans to get involved – no matter what areas of the game you love or don’t love, if you play or don’t play cricket or what you think about how the game is evolving. We are here for you.”


About the Survey:

The 15-minute online survey was created by the Cricket Supporters’ Association in conjunction with the team at Iris Concise, with the results analysed by the team at Sparkler. The survey was open to all cricket fans to complete and designed to understand the current opinion of cricket fans (of all ages) across England and Wales. The survey was accessible via and was shared via the CSA’s official social media channels, through the CSA newsletter database, through various media and stakeholder social media channels and through media relations.

With thanks as always to Getty Images.




Can I have some cold turkey?

by Paul Winslow, Cricket fan / addict

So here we are… it’s day one of the fifth Test and while Australia has retained the Ashes there’s everything to play for. After all a World Cup and a drawn Ashes series wouldn’t be a bad summer. I’m so excited I could crush a grape… except. I’m not. I mean I’m looking forward to it, but I feel a bit overloaded.

I haven’t got over the miracle of Headingley yet and there’s been another whole Test since then. I haven’t got over Archer’s Lord’s heroics and there’s been two Tests since then. I’ve almost forgotten Jack Leach’s audition to become an opener against Ireland. I haven’t got over the World Cup final yet and there’s been five Tests since then (I wrote four, then remembered Ireland… says it all.) And the West Indies series… a lifetime ago.

All the aforementioned highlights should stand alone to be inhaled, digested, consumed and appreciated before the next one happens along, but there simply isn’t time.

Can you have too much of a good thing? Well, yes and no. Complaining there’s too much cricket is like complaining there’s too much wine. But fine wine is best enjoyed when you haven’t smashed a couple of bottles down every other day for a couple of months. And so, cricket is best enjoyed when it has a feeling of being special.

It’s a good job that the ECB is mostly aiming its new ‘format that will not be named’ at new fans of cricket because quite frankly those of us who love it haven’t got enough time for anymore. I’m primarily an England fan and as I live overseas that’s what I have the most access to. Am I interested in the County Championship? Yes. Do I want to follow domestic cricket as well? Yes? But where do you find the time? I can’t keep up with what England have done this year.

There’s no wonder the players are burnt out because I am too. I can’t get my level of excitement up to its normal levels because I’ve been asked to do it too many times this year all ready.

One of my favourite parts of Test cricket is that it is one of the few things in this world that doesn’t satisfy the instant gratification needs of the 21st century human. You can’t just binge watch a Test match, you have to watch it unfold over several days. And you used to have to wait a while between Tests to recalibrate. And then you’d have to wait months until the next Test series.

But this year England will play Tests against five different teams… with the World Cup added. It’s every bit the same as binge watching your favourite series. But tell me really – does anyone enjoy binge watching more than they enjoyed waiting a week between episodes? The anticipation is what makes it even more enjoyable.

The caveat to all this is I will watch the whole Test, I this week booked accommodation for the South Africa tour and will probably end up in New Zealand. So, it seems like I’m an addict and maybe they can dilute it as much as they like and I’ll just keep jacking up without ever really appreciating the real highs again. And when you can make that analogy (and I apologise if that’s cheapening the real issues of addiction) it’s hardly a good sign.

What’s the point of all this? I’m not sure. Cricket has had a great summer. It has provided some of its all-time highs. The best World Cup final, possibly the best Test innings, maybe the best Test. I guess a prudent question is what happens next year? Will all those new fans drop away without constant highs? As seemingly everyone goes after the new fans, the last thing it can afford to do is overload the stalwarts so much that it dilutes their passion and dedication.

OK so amongst the madness of The Hundred, potentially not playing 50-over cricket anymore, changing schedules and possibly mucking up the Country Championship so much we can’t unearth Test batsmen (and that’s just in England), it’s hardly a major issue.

It’s just sometimes, less is more. And I always want more. Anyway, got to go – time to continue my binge watching of Day One.

County Representatives needed – could it be you?

We are looking for a Cricket Supporters’ Association (CSA) representative at each county. There is various reasoning behind this but perhaps most importantly it is so that the CSA is as inclusive and diverse as possible. We want to represent and be relevant for fans all ages, demographics and backgrounds from across England and Wales.

The more people we have involved, the easier it will be to achieve this goal.

Your work will also enable us to continue to grow our membership. A growth in membership means increased legitimacy and consequently, power and influence. By working together and offering an independent fully representative voice, we cannot be ignored.

We have plans to get to as many grounds as possible this summer but obviously we can’t and won’t know your county and community as well as you do and so this is where we need your help.

We would look for the County Representative to be involved in the following:

  1. Working with Becky Fairlie-Clarke in spreading the messaging of the CSA to all members / supporters of that county as far and wide as possible. Whether this is through the other supporter groups, working with the Club management or talking in the pub about the CSA. Encouraging sign-up to the CSA either as individuals or through the affiliate programme (please ask for more details of the affiliate programme).
  2. Establishing the role of fans and members at the County and the channels supporters at the Club use to get their views known
  3. Providing the CSA with feedback on the Club and any aspects /news that are particularly impacting the cricket fans of that county
  4. Assisting with the establishment of a fan’s forum at the county (not all counties every season) and handing out leaflets as required

We will look to host at least one event a year to meet with the County Representatives and discuss aspects of the volunteering programme. Of course, we realise that you will be time limited and so are very happy to discuss what the aspects are of the above that you think you will have time for and what the priorities should be.

The ECB’s Strategy For The Future Of Cricket

Cricket Supporters’ Association member and volunteer, Annie Chave, shares her report and reaction following the recent ‘Inspiring Generations’ conference hosted by the Devon Cricket Board and a chat with the ECB’s Tom Harrison.

Billed as ‘Inspiring Generations’, a conference to showcase the ECB’s Five-Year Strategy for Cricket (2020-2024) was hosted by the Devon Cricket Board at Sandy Park Rugby Ground in Exeter on 28 March 2019. The aim was to explain how Devon Cricket will integrate its planning with the ECB’s new strategy. Looking round the room, I could see that there was a good mix of generations, ranging from 16 to 70, around 20% of whom were women. Since Devon is 94.9% white British, the lack of ethnic diversity was no great surprise. Given the demographic, it can be said that there was a good turnout of cricket-loving fans just before the start of a new season, coming together to learn of the ECB’s plans to ensure that cricket continues to thrive and to inspire generations. So why did the occasion feel so insistently corporate? It’s as if the word ‘Conference’ necessitates the overwhelming presence of men in suits handing out glossy brochures. Despite the inevitable power-point presentations, it didn’t feel cutting-edge, and there was no convincing evidence that we were finding new ways of bridging the generation-gap. The ECB’s focus was on children, but there were no children’s voices to be heard.

The whole evening was billed on the premise that, although cricket is healthy in most parts of this country, it needs to adapt to a rapidly changing society. When Tom Harrison, the ECB’s Chief Executive Officer, was introduced as the keynote speaker, one of the first things he did was to quote a favourite motto of gung-ho corporations, ‘You may not like change, but you’ll like irrelevance even less’. This was the guiding principle for the ECB’s introduction of their ‘new competition’, The 100. After extensive research and hundreds of consultations, Tom Harrison was emboldened to claim that the ECBs ‘Five Year Plan to Inspire Generations’ is the only plausible way forward: one thing, he promised, that you’ll never hear him do is ‘apologise for seeking to grow cricket’.  And you won’t, I don’t doubt that at all.

In talking about the state of cricket in our country, Tom Harrison was not only ready to admit, but also keen to stress that currently it’s thriving. There are approximately 2.5 million players and 20.5 million followers annually. And it’s noteworthy that, currently, our Women’s team are world champions and our Men’s ODI team are number one in the world, that we still have huge attendance figures at Test Matches and that we have a strong county network. All this, he said, should be coupled with new broadcast partnerships as well as with commercial partners who share the vision of the power of cricket.  He’s proud of the position we’re in, and he’s keen to capitalise on the impetus of this year’s World Cup and Ashes to retain the present spectator base and to capture yet more. The ECB’s five-year plan aims to do this by balancing the need for the sport to continue to serve its loyal fans with the goal of extending cricket’s appeal (particularly to younger audiences and to women and girls).

I found some of what Tom Harrison said a hard pill to swallow. I’m one of those loyal fans, and I know I am not alone in feeling invisible. Many of my questions remain unanswered and some of my concerns derided.  I was hoping that the answers would be forthcoming and these concerns addressed. But ….

I should be fair. The ECB is targeting some of the real issues in cricket; youth participation, women’s cricket and accessibility in cities, for example. Their strategy is centred on six key priorities, which Tom Harrison listed:

– To grow & nurture the core

– To inspire through elite teams

– To make cricket accessible

– To engage children & young people

– To transform Women’s and Girls’ cricket

– To support our communities.

The plan will see more investment than ever before, with the initial sum of a cool £485 million. There is no doubt that the six nominated priorities are really worthwhile, and, if the money is well spent, we should see real improvements in these areas.  Tom Harrison recognises the need for money to be channelled into schools, and he hopes for an increase in participation in Primary Schools from 22% to 40-50%. He understands the need to make cricket more accessible, with inroads being made in urban centres.  The ECB has been helping the London Cricket Trust to install non-turf pitches in London parks, a great initiative which targets the massive issue of accessibility in cricket. The theory is great, but the details that he shared were, inevitably perhaps, vague, and there was no mention of Secondary Schools, where, surely, there is the greatest need for investment. It is at this level that the gulf between private and state schools is most apparent, and it is over these years that children are learning and developing targeted skills. Chance to Shine has been a fantastic success, and we should build on that by targeting the older age group. It is during the ‘secondary’ years that interest waxes and wanes.

The ECB is not confining itself to new initiatives. As Tom Harrison explained, £55 million will go to the first-class counties over the next five years to help fund the County Championship, the Vitality Blast and the Kia Super League.  He made no mention of the Royal London One Day Cup, but, when I quizzed him afterwards, he said that was just an oversight. Perhaps, then, I risk reading too much into his not mentioning the one-day game, and maybe I place too much importance on the fact that it is being relegated to minor grounds in 2020 and stripped of overseas players. Even so, I remain sceptical about the introduction of a new format in an already over-crowded schedule, and it’s surely pertinent to ask how this can possibly be reconciled with an intention of capitalising on the impetus of the World Cup?

Tom Harrison then talked about The 100. I’ve written a fair bit about this, and I don’t want to go into too much detail here. What was clear is that he is fully committed to it. He introduced it as a competition that ‘will be the most successful thing that English cricket will be involved in’. He has ‘never seen such a positive reaction’ from people involved in its trials, with the players’ feedback hailing it as ‘proper cricket’. Whilst he recognises the popularity of The Blast, attendance at which has grown by 115% since 2012, he criticises T20 for its ball-by-ball slowness. It is, he says, the slowest format of the game. The 100 will address this issue of time. And yes, he has a point. There are occasions on which a T20 over seems to last an eternity. But this, surely, is something that can be addressed within the format itself, and it’s difficult to see how a format like The 100, designed to give each ball maximum weight, is likely to speed up the game. I feel equally ambivalent about another of Tom Harrison’s positives. The 100, he argues, simplifies the game of cricket for new spectators. A counter-argument is that the game’s complexities are what make cricket great. Clearly, though, Tom Harrison and many of the powers that be, fearful of irrelevance, feel the need to provide a competition that people can more easily understand.  And this competition – the final, clinching argument – will be available on Free-to-Air Television. Tom Harrison says that it is only this new competition has made this possible. Thirteen matches in The 100 will be shown on the BBC, and the impact on the population at large, and on young potential cricketers in particular, will be huge.

This, of course, is another contentious issue, and one on which I needed to bite my tongue. It was the ECB which took cricket off free-to-air when they sold it to Sky in 2005. Bringing it back, if not an act of contrition, is a definite U-turn. As Vic Marks has said, ‘now we have an implicit acknowledgment that the decision, taken more than a decade ago, not to insist upon some cricket remaining on F-t-A TV was contrary to the best interests of the game’. An implicit acknowledgement is better than none, and having cricket back on the BBC can only be a good thing.

Tom Harrison’s was a well-rehearsed, cleverly positive speech that aimed to leave no doubt that The 100 was the only avenue.  I can see the reasoning, but I think it’s been clumsily introduced as a concept. It throws up real concerns about the future of the first-class counties. There was some irony in the holding of the Conference in Devon, as The 100 won’t be played here. I was told that I could watch it on TV, but I think that misses the real point of exclusion. Somerset C.C.C., which was well represented at this conference, will not be hosting The 100, Cardiff will be the closest ground. There was nothing in the speech, or in my conversations afterwards, that has helped convince me that the 10 counties that aren’t hosting The 100 will still have first-class status beyond the next few years.  My greatest fear for Somerset – that Taunton will dwindle into a host ground and a venue for bands – is still with me. Those professional cricketers who proclaim that the white-ball game is the ‘only way forward’ do no service to many of their fellow-professionals. And if The 100 takes hold of the nation’s cricket, if it proves as ‘inspirational and successful’ as its advocates believe it will, how bleak will be the outlook for the also-rans?

At the end of the evening Tom Harrison tried to reassure me that I will love The 100, but seeing as it is as far from the County Cricket that I love & it threatens to jeopardise its existence, I have reason to doubt that.  Given the time and money that The ECB are investing into this ‘new competition’ I hope that it is the success they expect it to be and I hope it generates the income to maintain the other formats as it promises it will, otherwise I fear for the future of all cricket in this country.

The need for the Cricket Supporters’ Association

Every so often, English cricket embarks on “a review.”

Invariably, this is described as a consultation with all the “stakeholders” in the game. Which tends to mean the broadcasters, the sponsors, the players and the counties. And, fair enough: all of them are important.

But the group that is overlooked is the spectators. Despite the fact that they indirectly pay the wages of just about everyone involved in the game – the players, the administrators and the media – they are, all too often, taken for granted or even exploited.

Part of the problem is that cricket is run by cricketers. Or at least ex-cricketers. And that means it is run by people who have, all too often, forgotten what it’s like to pay to come into the ground. It’s run by people who have forgotten what it’s like to spend a considerable proportion of their most precious asset – their holiday entitlement – on watching a team that provides no guarantee of success or even entertainment. Hell, there isn’t even a guarantee of play. It’s run – and commented upon – by people who often sit behind glass, benefit from heating or air-con, a free lunch, free parking and free tickets. It’s run by people who have, all too often, forgotten what it’s like to be a spectator.

The tangible aim of the Cricket Supporters’ Association, therefore, is to persuade the ECB to accept a supporters’ representative onto the ECB board to ensure they can be consulted and considered at all times. The less tangible aim is simply to remind everyone – the umpires, the players, the schedulers etc – to think about the spectators a little more. To ensure their views and priorities are at least considered when major decisions are being taken.  It’s meant to be a spectator sport, after all.

In time, the ICC and other national boards should invite similar representation. It won’t weaken them. Instead it will provide them with greater insight into the thoughts of spectators and allow them a relatively straightforward way to canvas views and gain feedback. It should benefit everyone. We are, the vast majority of the time, all on the same side.

For it to work, though, it needs your support. It needs to demonstrate that it fairly represents a meaningful number of spectators and that it has no ulterior motives. Ultimately, it needs you.

I therefore urge you to support it and to get involved. It’s your association.

George Dobell
Senior Correspondent, ESPNcricinfo