Richard Gould – More work for ECB to do after publication of positive impact report

The ECB must seek to “challenge the definition of a cricket club” in its bid to harness the sport’s full potential, according to CEO Richard Gould, following the publication of a new impact report aimed at “demonstrating the positive influence of the game”.

The Impact of Cricket Report was compiled in conjunction with The Sports Consultancy, using the ECB’s own data to assess the sport at all levels in the 2022 and 2023 seasons. In particular, the report focussed on the extent to which cricket improves the lives of its participants, and helped to connect communities, with 83% of players agreeing that it gave them a better appreciation of people from different backgrounds.

The report found that 1.1 million children played cricket through ECB programmes, partner programmes or organised play last year, while the rapid growth of the women’s game continued with 717 new women’s and girl’s teams being founded in 2023, a 20% increase on 2022.

“The Impact of Cricket demonstrates the power of our sport and the positive effect it can have on the lives of players, fans or volunteers – and on the communities where it is played,” Gould said.

“Our ambition is to make cricket the most inclusive sport in England and Wales. While we know we have much more work to do, this report shows that cricket is delivering significant benefits today and that we have solid foundations on which to deliver lasting change, to more people, in future.”

A rise in the popularity of indoor cricket has also played a part in cricket’s recent growth, with more than 30,000 players engaged in the sport through urban cricket centres, 137 of which have been created since 2022.

“The definition of a club needs challenging and we are going to challenge that now,” Gould said.

“You don’t have to have a piece of grass and a pavilion, you can just have a collection of friends that meet in one of these sports halls once a week and you play cricket.

“It is a very different landscape and I think it is a very exciting landscape because it just makes it much easier to play cricket.”

In addition to the uptake in participation in women’s cricket, the report highlighted that 28% of TV viewers in 2023 were female, a record percentage, while 526 recreational clubs have received funds aimed at making their facilities more accessible and welcoming.

“The historical ecosystem has not been there to support this game, therefore we need to re-engineer that entire system,” Gould said. “And we need to do it really quickly. I don’t see it as a challenge. I see it as a huge opportunity when you’re trying to grow a game. Why wouldn’t you want to make sure that every club in the country has both men and women, girls and boys, playing?”

However, the report was greeted with scepticism by Azeem Rafiq, the former Yorkshire player whose revelations about his treatment at the club were the catalyst for the ICEC’s formation.

Writing on X, previously known as Twitter, he rejected the idea that cricket is “bringing communities together”, and suggesting that the impact report aimed to “gaslight us with big statements”.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket


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