Before the statistics it should be mentioned that the ECB does have some good things to say in 2019, the World Cup Final in the eyes of many has been the sporting highlight of the year. When its board members gave evidence to a DCMS inquiry into the game’s future last month there was talk of growing the game in schools, and women’s cricket was prominent in a way that it wasn’t during the last inquiry held after the ending of FTA coverage in 2005.
But on to The 100 and the ECB’s intention to attract newcomers to watch games. As for the evidence it gave on those who watch now: an average age of 50, “a 77% male bias and a 82% bias towards White British”; although of what these figures were based on, no mention. By comparison, in the world beyond the people of England and Wales were 51% female, 81% white Brits at the last census.
Nationally, the (median) average age is around 40, cricket spectators are older, but the game is not alone in having a mature audience; different numbers, but much the same sentiment in relation to football in the relatively recent past. This is not particularly surprising given the way much sport is funded, paywall TV, and the big economic changes which have helped more mature types keep paying and keep interested. But no questioning that the game has a generational problem, arguably its biggest problem.
As to the disproportionate number of men who watch the game: if this, as it reasonably might be, is taken as evidence for wanting to encourage more women to attend, why would the basically proportionate number of white Brits be referred to in terms of bias? Cricket, on the ECB’s own evidence, has been doing ok overall in attracting a diverse audience; three formats of the game enough.
So what’s the problem? A governing body with a CEO who simply doesn’t understand or who doesn’t (want to) believe his own statistics? To be sure England and Wales is changing in the direction of greater numbers of those who make-up the minorities. It could be fairly pointed out that the last census numbers (2011) are rather old, the question now being how much change has there been since.
But also to the point here is just how different the ‘cricketing heritages’ are of the minorities in a global world: just how much difference in interest in the game of cricket there is likely to be between, say, those who were born in the People’s Republic of China living here now, those with an Indian heritage and those who have migrated from Poland more recently.
But not much doubting the intention of those at the ECB who see the The 100 as “an awfully big opportunity…..to get diverse and urban communities turning up in their droves”. Re-profiling the ethnicity of the game’s spectators may not get very far: The 100 may simply attract those who watch or would have watched the Blast, the stats that the ECB gave to the DCMS select committee could in any case be (many) a mile off. But given what they say they know, it is an adverse comment on the governing body of a national game that they would try in the first place.