Of the six successful Women’s Cricket Super League bids, all bar one are located at county cricket clubs – the exception being Loughborough University. How will hosting a Super League team at a non-county venue work in practice? CRICKETher spoke to Jo Emmett, the leader of Loughborough University’s successful bid, to find out more about the details.
Emmett confirmed that – despite the ECB’s initial consideration that the Loughborough University ground would not be suitable for WCSL matches – they are intending to host their WCSL games at the university ground. “Every season Loughborough MCCU hosts First Class cricket against county opposition and in 2013 the University hosted women’s international cricket when England last took on Pakistan,” Emmett told CRICKETher. “A comprehensive facilities outline was included within our bid, and as such we don’t envisage there being any issues with the ground being used to play WCSL cricket this summer.”
Clearly the ECB were impressed with Loughborough’s bid; Emmett sees this as attributable to their “strong background in delivering performance sport programmes”, as well as the “holistic environment” Loughborough offers, in which athletes from a variety of sports train alongside each other in top-quality gym facilities.
Loughborough’s successful bid might also have had something to do with their involvement in the flourishing Netball Superleague (the elite domestic netball competition in England and Wales). The Loughborough Lightning netball team was set up over a decade ago, and has seen ticket sales and fan engagement grow year on year. Emmett revealed that those marketing the WCSL team will draw on this experience, which she considers to be “invaluable for us for setting up a new fan base as a WCSL host.”
It is interesting that Loughborough clearly intend their WCSL team to be fully integrated with their current university women’s cricket programme, with Emmett labelling the Super League squad as “the pinnacle of our development system, comprising students, national and international players who have trained together throughout the whole year where possible.” The intention, Emmett told CRICKETher, “is for a seamless player development environment… Our philosophy is based on running one women’s cricket development programme”.
Emmett confirmed that Loughborough are currently looking to work with a variety of local partners going forward, now that their bid has been successful. In particular, CRICKETher can reveal that their bid was supported by Leicester City Council, Leicestershire County Council and Leicester-Shire and Rutland Sport (the County Sport Partnership for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland) – and that they are now in talks with Leicestershire County Cricket Club regarding closer collaboration.
Loughborough’s current detailed marketing plan, submitted as part of their bid, will target students, staff and the wider local community – but Emmett also was keen to stress to CRICKETher that Loughborough’s status as the only Midlands-based Super League team means that they are also now looking to make contact with counties, clubs and cricket boards across the region, and to ensure that all cricket fans in the region “are aware of the opportunities to watch WCSL matches at Loughborough… We are very proud to be representing the Midlands.”
As for what Loughborough might choose to name their WCSL team, that is sadly to remain under wraps for now – but do watch this space!