In 2017, England Women’s Cricket Team came away triumphant from the World Cup, grasping the trophy and inspiring thousands of girls along the way, by showing how incredible the game of cricket is and how girls all over the world can get involved. Recently, the ECB have introduced a ‘’Women’s Soft Ball Cricket Festival’’ in a hope to encourage more girls to take part; however, it has come under scrutiny from many women as it potentially comes across patronising. Do we need a soft ball to play with? Or is that we are incapable of understanding the rules? Is the aim to attract women, or to utterly belittle us?
The women winning the World Cup was an amazing advert for cricket, inspiring a nation and bringing together fans all across the country. It showed an immense display of positivity around not just women’s cricket, but women’s sport in general. Fans which included thousands of girls were gripped by the fantastic games and the chance of England winning. There is no doubt that it improved participation in cricket from girls, and inspired many girls to now go get into sport, and that they can do something just as well as anyone else can, or even go one further than any male teams have as England showed. There was a buzz around women’s cricket for a period of time after that final, it was being spoken about more than ever in my opinion, and I heard people discussing it around me, which left me feeling so proud of that team and the idea women’s sport was getting recognition that it needs. Throughout that time, girls really did run the world.
However, since that incredible spectacle, it seems that we are just going round in circles with women’s participation in cricket. The introduction of the soft ball tournament struck home that they don’t believe women enjoy the game as it is, which was further portrayed when the new proposed format ‘The Hundred’ was advertised to be attracted to women, especially mums. This suggesting that we currently cannot understand the game, and that we need a new format to help us be attracted to cricket. Personally, I have ample ability to understand the various formats of cricket, and what the ECB branded as ‘’baffling rules’ during their advertisement of the soft ball tournament. It is not beyond the capability of women to watch, and enjoy a cricket game. This negative marketing of cricket for girls and women watching cricket makes you realise that the people in charge of the game have such little faith in women in cricket, after everything our very own women’s team did, it seems to be being undone fairly quickly. The inspiration so many girls felt, has been took away as they now feel they have to take part in a simplified game for them to take part.
Throughout the world cup that our women won, 50% of ticket sales were to females, showing the interest for the game is there, but somehow the ECB have managed to patronise most of that audience by implying that they can’t understand, or participate in the usual rules of cricket or focus on a format which is in fact only 20 balls less than a current format. The England women’s team did not need a soft ball, less balls, a new set of rules to go out and win a world cup so why do others girls? It feels like it is one big circle, of positivity around women’s sport, inspirations and participation all increasing, but then gets brought back down by the thoughts that women have limited interest or ability in a sport that I know so many women love, and certainly have no problem understanding, even after a few cocktails! There is plenty of other ways to get women and girls into cricket, its been shown by the ‘All Stars’ campaign that plenty of girls have shown their interest into the game from grassroot clubs and that this is also on the rise with more and more signing up to the programme.
The issue also with the current situation the ECB believe to be that not many families are choosing cricket as an activity to take their children to, therefore explaining that they believe they need a new format to appeal to these families, and in particular mums. The new format is not going to all of a sudden turn mum’s ideas about cricket around, cricket and counties need to ensure that they produce a spectacle that is for a family. It is not the format that is limiting the potential of our current formats, it just needs a little attention in the family friendly department. Counties are putting all their efforts into making a cricket match a family activity with kids zones, family stands or activities and there is no reason this cannot attract the desired audience. Mothers aren’t thinking of how many balls an over there is, if they will get hit with a ball, or if they wont be able to understand it, they are thinking about giving their children the best fun possible, and getting value for money. Mothers can be just as much of part of the cricket audience as anyone else, if its done the right way.
Participation in women’s sport is on the rise certainly, however after our girls achieved the biggest triumph in cricket and gave inspiration to so many girls it seems that it is almost being washed away. Even though girls are enjoying cricket up and down the country, and women can sit and watch 5 days of a test match and understand it fully, the ECB still feels that we need a simplified version of the game with less risk to be hurt in to be attracted to it. Soon they may realise that if they just showed a little bit more faith in the female audience, it may solve their supposed problem…