Multi-year central contracts for England players and the ECB’s response to the Independent Commission’s equity report were in the news last month. From the MCC museum a reminder, about change, and how well some have done from decades of globalisation and paywall TV revenues. The 1980 figure equates to around £50k today, that summer tickets to watch the West Indies in front of the the Tavern bar were within reach of folks with limited means: students, people doing manual jobs.
While the rewards at the top have increased enormously the number of recreational players has declined steeply and into the world of 2023, an equity report aiming to tackle racism, sexism and elitism in cricket. As a row 30 spectator no experience of the above, it’s not easy to get a sense of how widespread personal prejudice is: 4,000+ responded to the Commission but the unknowable is just how typical their experiences are of everyone else. It struck me that the aims of the report are admirable but given their scope very ambitious.
It’s not news that disproportionate numbers of recreational players now have a South Asian heritage or (given the numbers of pros who have) probably been to an independent school; in a way it’s a good thing that cricket has such a hold on some, where would it be without them. But given the stated aim is to make the sport more representative overall, would a big, disproportionate increase in women players come with a fall or rise in the % from independent schools?
Could be either; aims that don’t always rub together are a problem, among others, and at least a de facto set of priorities be needed, particularly when set against the big financial decisions. Private investment ahoy?- billionaires to pay the millionaires more while tickets, even at the Home of Cricket, are within reach for those with limited means, bear some general connection to what they were in 1980?
Stranger things have happened, although if football is a marker that won’t be the story with tickets and, for the profit-minded, given the production line of the best players has increasingly been independent schools, why bother to fund county cricket, certainly the 18-county version? If push came to vote and the downside of the status quo is a T20 competition being ranked 3rd after the IPL, personally that’s what I’d vote for.