Following the commercial success of the recent Women’s World Cup, the idea of bringing cricket (back) to the Olympic Games appears to be back on the table.
The idea seems to be that it would be a T20 competition, and that one of the World T20s, currently held every 2 years, would be sacrificed to make space for it in the calendar.
The key advantage would be increased funding, especially for the “Associate” nations, which could see big increases in their budgets; but elsewhere the arguments seem less clear-cut.
The suggestion that this would be an 8-team tournament, with the Caribbean nations competing separately, is particularly problematic. Although various Caribbean nations have previously competed independently in Women’s World Cups, the strength in depth just isn’t there to support them being competitive, especially given that Great Britain (which would basically be England), Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India would all be at full-strength – if you thought the West Indies v South Africa was a mismatch last month in Leicester, you ain’t seen nothing yet!!
One big winner, potentially, could be Ireland, who would on current form walk into a prospective second European qualifying spot. The increased profile it could give the game there would be fantastic; and obviously they would welcome the money; but what Ireland really need on the pitch is more regular international competition – i.e. a place in the Women’s International Championship – not a once-every-four-years chance to be smashed into smithereens by the big girls.
Even for the top sides there are potential issues – you don’t need to look further than this week’s furore over England’s women’s rugby contracts, as they struggle to balance the short-term priority of the 7-a-side Olympic game with the longer-term health of the nascent 15-a-side professional setup, to get a hint of some of the problems we might be facing down the line if this is a road we choose to go down.
Our suspicion is that this “if“ remains a big one – although it is true that the Olympics gave a big recent fillip to women’s football in this country; the boost that it gave to women’s “soccer” after their triumph in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics proved somewhat illusory, followed as it was by a literal “bust” which left the game there basically bankrupt by 2003.
And of course all this is assuming that some of the more prosaic issues like sponsorship and TV rights, currently allocated globally and with all manner of exclusivity clauses could be sorted… though to be fair the fight between Pepsi and Coke over that one could be an Olympic sport all by itself!!
Cricket in the Olympics sounds like a nice idea – global and inclusive; but the devil is always in the details, and our guess is that once this becomes clear, it just ain’t gonna happen.
The IOC tend to like to introduce new sports that are played in many countries or that might offer the chance of a ‘smaller’ nation to succeed (hence Rugby 7s which gave Fiji its first ever medal, and a gold one at that). Not sure cricket would pass this test for women (although perhaps Sri Lanka, not exactly laden with medals, might have a chance in the mens).