During December, I tend to look back at the year that’s been and hold it in my hand, a bit like a shell from a beach.
In the moment, it can all be a bit of a blur but as we approach the shortest day of the year, it feels like the right time to pause; picking out key moments for myself, Cricket Yorkshire and the recreational game.
Running a cricket website business is very rewarding but not without its stress and challenges. The trick is to strike the right balance and working from home where I look out onto a garden teeming with birdlife is the gift that keeps on giving.
Isolation has been on my mind of late. On the one hand, Cricket Yorkshire is read far and wide from Bradford to Botswana with 170,000 readers finding out about the latest at grassroots over the last 12 months.
You’d think I feel more connected because of that but in some ways, it can be the opposite, operating as I do from a keyboard in a corner of West Yorkshire.
That’s where a kind tweet, re-sharing an article or a reply to the newsletter lifts the spirits.
I’m really grateful for the 17,000 cricket fans who follow Cricket Yorkshire on Twitter / X and Facebook. There is enormous wisdom and experience but CY, like everyone else, is at the whim of algorithms.
Mr Zuckerberg and Elon Musk decide what you see (or don’t) so I’ll be thinking about how to tempt more of you to sign up for my newsletter in future. It might be I scale up my social media efforts too.
To return to the theme of connection, 2023 has been the second year since Covid lockdowns and the madness that followed that I’ve travelled much more around the region to watch cricket and talk to those involved in it.
It’s still an enormous relief.
I’ve particularly savoured village cricket, in rural settings, while also re-connecting with some who I’ve not met for years and others who I was delighted to say hello to for the first time.
After nearly 14 years of Cricket Yorkshire, I still get a crackle of excitement that comes with visiting a cricket ground for the first time. Ingleton and Long Lee were both hugely enjoyable but there were others.
A desire to stay connected is a human trait and speaking as a writer who generally prefers a quiet life, it’s one that I need to listen to.
I’m grateful for the many strategy sessions with Mrs Cricket Yorkshire who untangles my confusion with a kindness and patience that has no limits.
It is a particular bonus that meetings almost always include chocolate biscuits and a mug of Yorkshire Tea. Very civilised.
Environment matters too.
We have a beautiful cat called Tigs who will sit on my office desk as I write up an interview from the Bradford League or edit my photography from the weekend. He’s a calming presence with a purr like a Formula One car.
I often have the DSLR camera nearby to capture photos of feathered visitors; it can be a welcome distraction if you’re tussling with an article and getting nowhere.
In fact, photography has been important for my mental health this year to unplug from pixels and enjoy nature. Similarly, photographing cricket grounds and matches has had the same benefit.
More. More. More. It can be magnetic but comes with a warning sign. Here at CYHQ, it’s been an incredible year. We are not Cricinfo, Wisden or the BBC. Yet, as a niche website, it’s been really satisfying to see how many interviews, travel features, opinion pieces and news items we’ve shared.
More than ever before and with a greater breadth of teams, clubs and leagues. Happily, it became a snowball that kept on rolling.
A key part of that has been welcoming new writers and we’ve had contributions on all kinds of things from the growth of women and girls’ cricket in Huddersfield to one of the smallest leagues going, the Feversham in the North York Moors.
It’s important to have a variety of voices and experiences on the site across grassroots cricket so if you want to discuss an article, just get in touch with me.
I can’t possibly publish as much as I’d like to but others submitting articles, even if they need a proofread and polish, ensures as many formats, standards, people and places across the region are represented.
Well-written stories are always appreciated, if you’ve got one to tell and it’s a good fit with the website then we can bring it to life.
Our features have included another season of Andrew Gallon’s travels and insight. He writes so well and any cricket club fortunate enough to get a visit has an article that’s the perfect advert.
If you want to dive in and get a blast of summer in the winter months then check out Andrew’s column on Cricket Yorkshire.
We are a small team here at CYHQ and I want to give a mention to Hazel, a magician who helps me with editorial, admin and other random requests out of the blue, all with the speed of a Mark Wood yorker.
Making it pay
I get asked how I make a living from Cricket Yorkshire quite a bit, usually at a cricket ground where someone is astonished it’s a job I have built for myself.
The answer is that I’ve gone a different route from most cricket websites out there. No Google ads, no advertising at the bottom of pages (miracle creams, celebrity gossip) and no betting (it’s everywhere).
On CY, there’s a bit of advertising (often with a discount or offer) but mainly, it’s sponsored articles that are well-read, shared and tap into my ethos of telling stories you’ll want to read, regardless of whether they’re about a player, club or company.
So, instead, I focus on relevant partners who I can definitely help and you, as the reader, might want to buy from. They often sell products and services to cricket clubs but it might be broader than that.
To work with the likes of Yorkshire Tea, Serious Cricket, Total Play, YCB, SIS Pitches, Frogbox, Brsk, Pitchero, Village Cricket Co and Payntr has been rewarding to learn about how they operate and help the grassroots game in different ways.
2023 was a landmark year in that all companies and organisations renewed from 2022 and we welcomed newcomers on board.
I identified competitions as something to bring back and thanks to generosity from Payntr and Frogbox, there were discounts and freebies to snap up.
Looking ahead to 2024, we already have Howden Broking, British Recycled Plastic, ACS Cricket Equipment and the Yorkshire Cricket Board as partners with more to follow.
They add value for readers and help to fund the journalism we do – so thanks to all clubs buying from partners on Cricket Yorkshire, players and parents purchasing equipment or other offerings.
Clubs and communities
On this roll call of acknowledgement, cricket clubs are really valued. I am regularly in awe at the work that they do in local communities. Sure, there’s the cricket teams and on-field stuff that enables many thousands across Yorkshire to enjoy the game.
But, it’s all of the other events and projects they do too from Warm Spaces for those in need of a roof and brew for a few hours to charity fundraising; always something going on beyond the nuts and bolts of cricket.
Thanks to everyone who has agreed to be interviewed, offered background, advice or an article. Sorry if I didn’t manage to feature your club this year but drop me an email and we’ll explore the art of the possible.
New book out
Dales, Bails and Cricket Club Tales is out on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle/eBook. (That’s an affiliate link, so as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases / earn a few extra pence per copy).
I began the year with a long list of ambitions and while a book was on there, I only decided properly in summer so it’s been a whirlwind to self-publish. Deciphering the world of Amazon has been eye-opening.
For now, it’s only available on Amazon so grab your copy there if you’re interested in a snappy read of clubs and leagues in Yorkshire.
I have ideas galore for other books but a compilation of travel features from the website may be something I do annually: It’s giftable, a recap of the year and helps new readers find CY via the book.
There will be a few copies of Dales, Bails under Christmas trees and that’s a genuine delight.
In all honesty, I am simultaneously overflowing with inspiration for 2024 and also knackered. A Christmas recharge will boost batteries and there are interviews and competitions already lined up for January.
One last thing…. If you’ve read this far, congratulations, you’ve won the Cricket Yorkshire Five-Star Reader Gold Badge – but can I be cheeky and ask a final favour?
If you haven’t already, would you mind doing our quick, 5-min reader survey?
It’ll signpost extra topics I may not have thought of, show me what you like about Cricket Yorkshire and what else I can consider for the year ahead.
Speaking of which, I’ll be writing about 2024 and throwing in some predictions so watch out for that soon.
Thanks for reading and keep in touch, John – [email protected]
- My new book is out: Dales, Bails and Cricket Club Tales - February 24, 2024
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