In 2019, I retired and came back to Yorkshire after 40 years away.
Throughout a lifetime of working too hard, I had promised myself that I would spend my sunset years reconnecting with my roots and watching cricket at beautiful grounds.
Enjoying the contest, the view, the fluffy clouds, revelling in glorious idleness, all to a backing track of birdsong, owzat and the thwack of a sweetly timed cover drive.
Then came covid.
Well, I’m out and about now and the experience is everything I’d hoped for and a whole lot more. I’ve spent wonderful afternoons at fabulous grounds.
The cricket is my main but not, I confess, my exclusive focus, nor do I necessarily stay the whole game. There are lots of people like me out there of all ages.
The standard of cricket is watchably high. I use the Play-Cricket website to plan my outings and of course it’s completely brilliant.
Which brings me to my beef.
Play-Cricket is not for the likes of me. No, it says it’s for clubs, teams, players, leagues and county cricket boards. Anyone and everyone but me.
Nothing at all about spectators. Indeed nowhere have I found any acknowledgement, not even a grudging concession, that spectators as a species so much as exist. Am I using the website under false pretences? Is recreational cricket a branch of freemasonry?
It all feels a tad unwelcoming and a bit odd. Especially if you’re a first-time spectator at this level. You don’t know what the correct form is when you turn up.
You don’t know the culture and costumes. Can I use the car park? Do I buy a ticket? Where do I sit? Should I check in with anyone? Was that a funny look I just got? Is someone going to ask me politely to leave?
It would be so nice if someone just stepped out of the pavilion and said ‘Hi, good to see you, thanks a lot for coming, yes just sit anywhere’.
They don’t. This seems mad. Yorkshire enjoys the best scenery on earth. And cricket is our great gift to the world, the most beautiful game ever devised. If it is to thrive it needs all the help it can get.
Dammit, it needs spectators and it needs to attract them and grow their numbers by looking after them.
Because here’s the point. Spectators are supporters. So they are monetisable. You can sell them stuff. Or ask them to bung you a few quid. Because supporters want to… yes, support. I always bring money to a game. I save myself a tenner every time because no one relieves me of it.
To be clear, I’ve not encountered any unwelcomingness when I turn up. It just feels like I am politely ignored.
And so I remain an unexploited resource.
My advice to cricket clubs everywhere? Start with your website. Tell me that inclusive means me, too. Invite me. Tell me something about your heritage. Any famous former players?
Recommend somewhere nearby where I can get an early lunch. Or buy a pie. Tell me where I can park. Tell me what other facilities and amenities are open to me. Can I get a cuppa?
Yorkshire’s cricket scene is incredibly rich. But when it comes to looking out for spectators, clubs are starting from a very low base, I’m afraid. The wonderful experiences I have enjoyed are being shared by precious few others.
I’m not talking sweet charity here. I’m talking brass. Look after us spectators a bit better, multiply us, and you’ll be able to buy that new bit of kit you long for a whole lot quicker.
- Can cricket clubs be better at attracting more spectators? - June 13, 2022
Andrew Gallon says
Good read, Charles. I’d recommend a visit to Garforth Parish Church Cricket Club. Just last Saturday, I was a first-time visitor to Green Lane (a.ka. the Aquafix Oval) – and could not have been made more welcome. Very friendly people, eager to talk about their club’s past, present and future.
I, too, would like to see more clubs include an historical overview in their online offerings. Perhaps one explanation for their general absence is too many tasks falling on too few shoulders?
Incidentally, the Bradford Premier League website’s club histories are excellent – ideal for newcomers and a template for other leagues.
Charles Cowling says
Great guidance, Andrew. Thanks. And point very much taken about overstretched volunteers, who are real unsung heroes. On reviewing what I wrote I can see that I somewhat overstated my case in my attempt to be thought-provoking, but also because I also want people like me to be able to do our bit in helping Yorkshire cricket to thrive. I shall now check out the BPL!
Andrew Gallon says
You won’t got wrong with the Bradford Premier League, Charles. Very good quality cricket, in all four divisions, and some extremely interesting grounds. Everybody has their own idea of what makes a ‘good cricket ground’, but 12 Bradford Premier League venues I’d recommend particularly are: Bowling Old Lane, Crossbank Methodists, East Bierley, Farsley, Hanging Heaton, Hopton Mills, Lightcliffe, Methley, Pudsey St Lawrence, Spen Victoria, Undercliffe and Woodlands. Also, there are any number of scenic, quirky grounds in the Halifax and Huddersfield leagues.
Charles Cowling says
Thanks for these, Andrew, consider them added to my shortlist. We itinerant cricket-gazers have untold riches before us!
You say ‘Everybody has their own idea of what makes a ‘good cricket ground’. Exactly right. Some will want to combine spectating with, say, a good walk — we have pub walks so why not cricket walks? For some the cricket is the main event, for others the setting, or the human drama, or the craic or the history. I don’t think Rawdon is necessarily an especially lovely ground, but it’s where Verity and Close first played so I’ll be going there for sure. I’ll drop off my perch well before I get to go everywhere I want to visit. At least I know I’ll never run out!
I do believe more people would enjoy an afternoon at the cricket if only they knew.
Mark Bailey says
Excellent point on the lack of volunteers making this difficult.
I started visiting my local club (Riddlesden in the Craven league) quite a few years ago and initially just sat by myself on a banking before one day edging closer to the clubhouse to see if I could determine if there were any drinks I could purchase.
Fortunately the (as I know now) treasurer came out to empty a bin as I approached and said ‘hello, feel sit anywhere you want & we have drinks and snacks at the bar inside if you’re interested’. He’d seen me at the previous 3 or 4 games but as I was sat far away and he was on his own looking after the bar he couldn’t come to greet me.
Now I’m the secretary and last Saturday there were just two of us trying to do the off field stuff, myself making teas and my colleague running the bar. So had anyone new come down we’d have struggled to meet & greet.
But this has made me think – perhaps an A-frame board needs to be acquired and placed on the approach to welcome people and invite them to come to the clubhouse and introduce themselves…
John Fuller says
Hi Mark, glad you liked Charles’ article. Food for thought for a few clubs perhaps. I’ve been down to Riddlesden last season to watch against Bingley Congs in a cup game on a Sunday. It was when your scoreboard was on the blink so you were lugging numbered breeze blocks/tiles.
A sign on the main road, if that’s possible, would alert people and perhaps get a few more locals along that don’t know RCC is tucked behind houses.It might get a few more along and one could be a future volunteer like you were. All the best for the rest of the season.
Charles Cowling says
‘Now I’m the secretary’. That’s great and made me chuckle, Mark. And the more I think about it the better I like the sound of your A-frame. It’s a very good idea. Because yes, I do think a lot of people feel a bit diffident and unconfident when they arrive and it really would make them (folk like us) feel at home.
Robin Coates says
You need to have a ride out to the coast one weekend, I would love to suggest our club to you Sewerby CC on the cliff top East of Bridlington in Sewerby village you park in the pub ship inn and take the Gynnal past Sewerby Park to rise up to our stunning ground, seating all around which is usually well used during our games, we are at home this Saturday, come and say hello 🏏🥰
Charles Cowling says
Robin, that’s very kind of you. Your invitation is irresistible. I can’t make this Saturday, but I shall come as soon as I can.