By Richard Clark
There was no county cricket on Bank Holiday Monday.
Not a ball bowled anywhere in England or Wales.
We (that is, the wider public with an interest in cricket) know this because it has been discussed at some length in the cricketing press, blogs and social media. Beautiful weather, everybody off work, kids on half term… and yet no cricket to watch. It’s no wonder the ECB appear convinced that children don’t “engage” with the game if they can’t actually go and see it.
Yet we (and this is a much smaller “we” – those of us who cherish women’s cricket) also know that it’s bunkum.
For there was plenty of county cricket on Bank Holiday Monday – 18 matches, to be precise – in the Royal London Women’s One Day Cup (or County Championship if you prefer). Ample opportunity for those keen to spend a day in a deck-chair or on a bench absorbing the ebbs and flows of the game to get out and do so.
And not just in the “traditional” areas of the country. Monday’s matches stretched far beyond the confines of the 18 First Class counties, from Pontarddulais to Dumfries, and from Long Melford to Instow. They say you’re never more than six feet from a rat, but it’s quite possible that wherever you were in the country on Monday you would have been ever closer to a women’s county cricket match!
Yet there will have been few in attendance, beyond family and friends, at most of those fixtures. Why? Various reasons, but not least amongst them is the almost total lack of noticeable publicity.
The ECB doesn’t include fixtures on its own website and the mainstream media are not interested. “The Cricketer” only includes England and KSL matches on its pre-season poster (although, in fairness, the typeface is fairly small as it is!), and “The Cricket Paper” gives but scant coverage. These games might as well not exist.
Even “the Counties” (with exceptions) provide very little publicity for their women’s teams – perhaps not surprising given that the two are usually totally separate entities run by different bodies.
There is some cohesion, some element of “joined-up thinking”. In my own county (Worcestershire), for example, the women now wear the same kit with the same “Rapids” branding as the men, albeit with different sponsorship. That’s unarguably a step in the right direction, but there is very little publicity given to the women’s team via the County’s official website and social media.
County Boards largely do a good job – again to use my county as an example, they use social media well to publicise matches in advance, and, pleasingly, have been able to encourage the local press to run a few stories this season in particular, but for the most part they are very much preaching to those already within the tent. Their reach beyond their own existing sphere is limited at best.
Websites and blogs such as this one, and a handful of social media champions do a great job, but I’m sure Syd and Raf will acknowledge that by and large they too are preaching to the well-and-truly converted. Nothing wrong with that, and all praise to them for doing a great job, but it has a minimal impact in terms of spreading the gospel.
The question that needs to be asked is this. Do we want to keep the status quo, where England’s games are well marketed and well attended, the KSL (and whatever it morphs into in two years’ time) likewise, but the county game all but invisible? Or do we believe in the Championship and its T20 cousin? Are we happy to keep it as our own little secret, shared between a select group, or would we rather share it – as much as we can – with the larger cricketing family?
And this is the thing. There are, I’m convinced, people out there who would be interested in the women’s county game if only they knew about it, and who would be keen to sample one of their county’s fixtures. Some of them may well be aware that it exists, but have no idea how to go about finding out more. We (that’s the second “we”) know where to look, but if others don’t know where to look how do they find out where to look?!
At times I feel – wrongly, I’m sure – that there’s a fear amongst those of us “in the know” of shouting too loudly about the women’s county game. Is it because those of us who appreciate it want to keep it to ourselves, or because we worry about criticism from newcomers who compare it with the men’s game, or the sneering and knuckle-dragging responses from the “caveman element”? maybe we fear it turning into something that isn’t quite what we came to appreciate in the first place? I hope, and deep down believe, that I’m wrong about all that.
So what do we do?
Well, take this Sunday for example. There is another round of Women’s Championship fixtures – Divisions 1 and 2 only, of course. There are also a number of Men’s Royal London Cup games, but obviously not every county is at home, and two (Yorkshire and Somerset) don’t have a game at all.
In Yorkshire’s case, their women play Nottinghamshire at Harrogate, and the Yorkies are still in with a decent shout of the Division 1 Title. That’s a game worth shouting about, worth publicising, surely? Yet neither Yorkshire CCC’s website nor their social media platforms make any mention of the match. There is – to their credit – an impressive section on their website about the KSL Diamonds, but nothing on the actual county team.
Elsewhere on their website, however, a page on the women’s county team (which I eventually found after some time searching) includes a useful link to “Our Review of 2013”. Hmm…
Meanwhile, Hampshire’s men are away to Glamorgan, whilst their women host Middlesex at Andover. With Hampshire currently topping the table, surely some supporters would like to get along and potentially see them lift the trophy? And to Hampshire’s great credit as I write on Friday morning it is the lead story on their website, whilst they have also plugged the match through their social media. Top marks to them!
These two examples illustrate perfectly what can be done, and what is not being done. And we can play our part in making sure there are more Hampshires and fewer Yorkshires.
Those of us on social media can influence the way counties behave in this area. Badger them, tag them in when you’re mentioning matches, remind them, make it hard for them to bury their heads in the sand.
Similarly, use Facebook pages and forums to mention games at every turn. Irritate people. Learn to appreciate the boneheaded comments from those still dwelling in the 17th century, for the one thing they tell you is that you’re being seen and heard. Besides, you know the answers to every snark and snipe. Take those jibes at face value and argue them down. It may not make a difference to that particular individual’s view, but others reading will take it in.
Women’s county cricket has so much going for it. Free (or very cheap) admission – making it affordable for a family, and also meaning you don’t feel you’ve wasted a load of money if you can only pop in for an hour or so – a friendly “traditional cricket” atmosphere, usually a bar (this is very important!), a chance to mix with and talk to the players to an extent, more often than not space for the children to run around unhindered…
But you know all this. I’m off on a converted-preaching mission again. It’s time we started to be proud of this game, and began to tell the world about it.
Follow Richard Clark on Twitter @glassboy68
Well said. And I suspect none of “we-the-already-converted” want to keep the game just to ourselves. I, for one, want publicity for the women’s game, and coverage of it, in every medium possible.
I think I may well take you up on your suggestion about making ourselves pains-in-the-arse on social media – we all need to do something.
Weeks into the season the slumbering giants the ECB & SKY decide to promote participation in cricket as part of their Test cricket coverage. What does that mean? It means All Stars and Women’s softball cricket.
There is a much bigger problem but the ECB just stick a banner over it and ignore it.
Great article and hits many points right on the nose.
I too have searched a few of the women’s websites to find fixtures being shown for 2012, and match reports from games in 2014!
Basically, free or cheap entry, bar, food and beverages for reasonable price
(or donations) would be a start.
I sent this in after the women’s awards, but think it is relevant to deliver again.
1. Charge NO entrance fee at all to anyone. If children come free parents usually don’t, so they will not bring the children. Catch 22?
2. Some counties really do look after spectators with easily accessible refreshments, and if you do pay at all, they are very reasonable. A really good idea is voluntary contributions.
3. Some counties charge too much for basic refreshments causing very few to buy anything!
4. Send local schools batches of tickets, if they get 20/30 they would be inclined to give them out as rewards to pupils.
And somehow give as much publicity of fixtures coming up, T20s start soon, 2 games in one day all over the country !!
Amendment update………as pointed out by Mrs Red Rose Renegade.
Of course the T20s will offer 3 games in one day, even better value !!!
Mrs RRR beat me to it! Of course, it’s a long day if you stay for all three matches, bearing in mind the home team usually plays first and last, but as I said, when admission is free it’s easy to “dip in and out” as you fancy.
Exhausting to report on tho!!
I must add a bit of a correction to my piece. Worcs CCC’s website does give very good reports on the women’s matches, usually “lifted” from the Board website (but so what, a report is a report is a report, to paraphrase Richard Burton…). However, it’s ADVANCE publicity that gets people interested, and that is lacking, I’m afraid. Nobody ever turned up to a game after reading a report about it after it happened!
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However, all of the good suggestions above and what happens?
England players taken from the County teams for the last games of a tightly fought season. What a joke! More training I suppose….??
So if counties HAD publicised their games “including England players” supporters would turn up and be disappointed and slightly cheated.
But I bet Suzie Bates will be in the Hampshire team!
Oh well, it gives the younger, less experienced players a chance to express themselves and gain experience.
Good luck to all County teams in the final matches. RRR
Unfortunately many of the women’s county teams are not even supported by their men’s equivalent, Derbyshire being a prime example. While Sussex women are supported and championed by their county, hold press days and present as a professional team, which is utterly fab, Derbyshire have to fund their own kit plus winter and summer training, have a few mostly out of date pages on the cricket board website and have no mention from their county’s website. Surely these inequalities need addressing by the ECB? There are fantastic games this Sunday then the 20/20 games starting next week. The girls and women’s game is growing in Derbyshire, a recent cricket board training session saw over 20 girls at the first night but unless there is a path for these girls to follow with a club that vaulted them at the end, many are unfortunately lost along the way. We need to publicise the women’s game to give these girls Heros to aspire to.