This year’s County Championship and T20 Cup have recently concluded – in what looks set to be the last domestic season of its kind ever.
This time next year the inaugural T20 element of the Women’s Cricket Super League will have taken place – assuming all goes according to plan over the next few months.
In a recent interview Clare Connor outlined the rationale behind the Super League as follows:
“We wanted a competition that would excite and engage new players and new fans that would be a good shop window for women’s domestic cricket in this country. A competition that could eventually drive commercial income through TV and sponsorship revenues and a competition that would give us another platform other than international women’s cricket to grow the profile of the game. Women’s domestic cricket doesn’t achieve that.”
The suggestion is that the current domestic T20 competition has failed to secure the interest of the public in the same way that England Women have in recent years.
If that is the case, it is surely at least partly the fault of the ECB.
This season the following things have occurred:
1. T20 Finals Day – one of the most exciting days in the domestic calendar, which in previous years has attracted a crowd of several hundred – was cancelled ahead of this season, the winner of the T20 Cup this season being calculated simply based on who had scored the most points in the initial four rounds. No explanation was offered as to why the change was made, and CRICKETher are still not entirely clear about the rationale behind this.
2. On the final day of T20 games, it came down to a three-way tie between Yorkshire, Sussex and Kent on points, after all three won their final games. The winner would be decided by Net Run Rate… but who was it? Frantic calculations by Martin Davies from Women’s Cricket Blog initially suggested that Yorkshire had won… until the official scorecards were published on Play Cricket 24 hours later, and it was shown that Sussex were in fact the champions, by the tiniest of margins (0.02).
Was anyone from the ECB on hand to do the required calculations on Sunday evening? No – the whole situation was farcical.
3. Sussex were presented with the T20 Cup after their final 50-over game against Berkshire, by Tim Shutt of the Sussex Cricket Board. The ECB once again showed their commitment to the domestic competition, by… sending no representative to the presentation whatsoever.
This is all in addition to the ridiculous way in which the 50-over Cup was decided this season, whereby Yorkshire were able to win the entire Championship by refusing to play 3rd-placed Sussex, with nothing in the regulations to prevent this from happening.
Sadly all these things are indicative of the fact that, despite all the progress made at international level in recent years, very little attention (or finances) have been devoted to advancing the domestic game.
The Super League is an exciting prospect. If it succeeds where the County Championship has failed… if indeed it does bring in sponsorship revenue and grow crowds at domestic games… it will be at least partly because of the time, money and effort invested in it by the ECB.
It just seems a shame that it has taken this long for the domestic game to be given any kind of priority.
I think anyone interested in women’s cricket would agree that the game deserves better on a number of levels considering the efforts of thousands of volunteers to bring the game to this point domestically.
The WSL is a chance to raise the profile of the game in a competitive market and bring a greater depth of professionalism that is supposed to provide a higher quality product at the top end. I have no doubt the will be sponsorship to bolster the ECB contribution to the franchise running costs. But I do wonder if this will be an increase in sponsorship or a reallocation of funds?
The WSL is the new pinnacle of the domestic pyramid but the existing academy, county and club structure has been found wanting at a time of significant growth in participation. The game is now in direct competition for sponsorship, airtime and sporting talent with women’s football (now a summer game), rugby and netball the ECB have a big job on their hands and the WSL needs to be for the grassroots not just the ‘new’ fans the ECB are desperate to attract. (PS ECB – try Terrestrial coverage like the Lionesses achieved in the women’s world cup rather than tying the game to the men’s Satellite model)
The Women’s Big Bash has shown some of the challenges in a cricket mad country we in England have more as a cricketing community that the WSL should not cover-up or distract from.
i) Play Cricket actually got the NRR calcs wrong too! Have now been adjusted – Sussex won by a 0.05
ii) No incentive for ECB to invest time and money into County Champs once they had decided WCSL was the way forward
iii) ECB’s aims for WCSL are laudable but are they achievable? They are expecting an awful lot from the “hosts” with little or no guaranteed return.
iv) ECB cannot afford to forget County Champs – vital step in player development ladder.
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