This Cricket Yorkshire survey on recreational cricket was designed to take the temperature of the game.
Due to Covid-19, it has been as challenging and all-consuming as any cricket season.
The impact on volunteers, the serious and overwhelming guidance to wade through, the reduced playing opportunities, the list stretches on and makes for grim reading.
However, there have been reasons to be proud of what’s been achieved as you’ll see.
The purpose here is to tease out some of the key findings from the survey and look ahead to 2021.
How many did this recreational cricket survey?
In total, there were 504 respondents; not an enormous sample (given how much cricket is played in Yorkshire) but enough to show a credible snapshot.
What were their cricket roles?
38% were players and 20% club officials (I appreciate there can be both) with the rest made up of coaches, spectators, officials such as scorers and umpires as well as groundsmen.
Where were they from?
Understandably, the vast majority (96%) were from Yorkshire. However, we also had responses from Devon to Durham and further afield – California and even the moon apparently!
On a scale of 1 to 10, how much have you enjoyed this cricket season? (**10 being the best season since time began).
You’d expect enjoyment of cricket to plummet in a global pandemic. The question is also highly subjective, depending on what kind of day you’re having.
The point was to see if the cricket we did get was unpalatable with all the adaptations and missing players/teams.
The result was that 52% adjudged the season 7 out of 10 or higher. That was more positive than I thought we’d get – but then in May, the prospect of any cricket was very low.
Which statement best describes your thoughts on this season?
The results were:
63% – It was good to get any cricket in, given what’s going on, but would have liked more
21% – I know why we couldn’t play / watch, but the season hasn’t been great
16% – I’m happy with the amount of cricket I played / watched / officiated
Is this particularly surprising? No, not really. Any cricket was always going to be better than the disaster scenario of none.
That said, I’m acutely aware that recreational cricket faces a mountain to keep everyone connected to the game and a dubious half season might have put off those already on the fringes.
If you weren’t happy about the season, what specifically made it challenging for you?
Worries over catching Covid-19 (14%) didn’t seem to be what was preoccupying those involved in cricket.
25% thought a lack of games was the key frustration. There was a lot less cricket at all levels. Smaller leagues, less teams and only 3 months of the summer left.
The risk here is not to those who will walk over broken glass to get a game of cricket but those for whom it’s a part of life that they can take or leave.
22% cited lack of facilities as a real issue for them. Adel Biddle wrote an excellent feature about this and there has been lively debate on both sides on Cricket Yorkshire’s Twitter and Facebook.
Many clubs feel forced to offer teas at considerable cost and volunteer resource. It’s a hassle they could do without. Other profit handsomely or think it’s an essential part of the game.
Leagues will need to ask clubs whether they want to offer teas in 2021 and how it can work differently.
Concerns over the quality/competitiveness of the cricket on offer was another theme that emerged from Cricket Yorkshire’s research.
For those who opted to take part, it wasn’t ideal: weaker leagues, often in geographically-local groups of 3-4 teams, with sides dropping out when there was a suspected case.
The process of playing under adapted rules wasn’t very high up the list – put bluntly, what choice was there? Teams got used to ball cleaning and hygiene breaks soon enough as did umpires officiating.
If you’re involved in club cricket, what has been the most difficult part of the season?
There was an incredible amount for cricket club officials to digest, advise their members and act on themselves.
36% identified keeping to Government/ECB guidance as the most difficult part of their 2020 season. Retaining players (27%) and funding/finances (25%) were other common worries.
Player and volunteer retention will be high up the winter agenda for clubs and leagues as they consider how to keep players who thought this year wasn’t worth repeating.
What has gone well?
We will briefly disregard the final, single-word answer that sits at the top of the pile: Nothing! Though it will reflect the doom of some no doubt.
There was some consensus about any cricket getting played and the satisfaction of junior cricketers having some sort of season outdoors.
One comment caught my eye: ‘Getting back to playing just for fun. No pressure during the games, good opportunities for youngsters to play/do more during the game.’
It’s impossible to plot meaningful national trends as the data doesn’t exist but perhaps younger cricketers got more chances in teams where they’d normally be jettisoned to fine leg for 40 overs.
On a similar theme, it wasn’t all doom and gloom as this feedback suggested: ‘I’m back playing cricket at the ripe old age of 53.’
Up to sum up the cricket season in your own words
Short. Frustrating. Challenging. Better than nothing. And they were just the first few though they capture what it was like in this weird few months.
Here’s a cross-section of viewpoints:
‘Truncated and complicated. Great to get the game on. Helped with mental health and fitness.’
‘Despite lengthy consultation and guidance from government and the ECB, it only takes a brief look at photos on league websites to realise nobody is taking any notice. Unfortunately it was all too predictable and the reason I decided not to participate.’
‘It is good to play and to be out there, its just a shame that there seems to be a big gap between clubs with ample players and clubs struggling to survive possibly the COVID situation has sorted the wheat from the chaff in this regard. I do worry about rented and council grounds though with finances likley to be squeezed in years to come.’
‘Very challenging in terms of keeping the club on a sound footing from a membership and financial perspective. Pleased with the outcome from my own club’s efforts and in a sense Covid has brought us a bit closer together and highlighted where we need to focus in the short and medium term.’
‘I have liked the earlier starts, shorter games and in particular the limit on bowlers overs so that 5 bowlers have been used as a minimum in each innings. No teas also speeds things up. Overall good to get half a season and lots of lessons to learn for 2021.’
JF Note: Interesting stuff. I can’t possibly cover all the issues raised here but they will doubtless form the basis of other articles over the winter and thanks to everyone who took the time to give their views.
On a scale of 1-10, how positive are you feeling about next season?
For those who think this season has been one, tortuous horror film played out in the form of little cricket, lockdowns, Covid-19 updates and adapted rules, those who did the survey were more optimistic.
That could be a hope that we won’t have the same restrictions in place for 2021. Unlikely. Or, just that we’ve been through it once and everyone should be better prepared next season.
Either way, 70% of respondents rated their positivity 7 out of 10 or higher. Make of that what you will but I choose to see it as a doggedness to protect a game we all care about.
How likely are you to stay involved with cricket in 2021?
Has this season put many off cricket altogether? Again, that really depends if you are deemed a ‘core’ or ‘casual’ participant or somewhere in between.
In true Family Fortunes game show-style, the survey said…
Very likely! In fact, 84% rated it as 9 or 10 out of 10. Now a bit of data context, if you’re doing this survey, you’re not a fringe player/official or fan. But even so, it’s encouraging.
What are the key issues to address in recreational cricket for the 2021 season?
This was the final and juiciest section of the survey and one where I will have to tease apart topics to see how I can best discuss them over winter.
Here were some of the most common topics that came to the fore:
- Player retention (juniors and seniors)
- Volunteers retention
- Opening facilities
- Finances & funding
- BAME participation
- Improving facility standards
- Player discipline towards officials
- Start times & formats – less overs or not?
- Keeping teens in cricket
Ok, that’s it for now…thanks for reading and do have your say by leaving a comment below and sharing the article on social media using the buttons below.
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I know I always ask this but it makes a difference and starts conversations. It also introduces Cricket Yorkshire to more cricket fans.
This has been an incredibly difficult year for all of us and yet there have been bright spots – check out the Cricket Yorkshire 50 for evidence of that.
The survey pulls together many of the themes players, clubs, leagues, coaches, parents, supporters and governing bodies will be pondering.
Most important of all, for the immediate and medium-term future of grassroots cricket, is that we learn from 2020.
Thanks go to Andrew Gallon for his photography for this feature.