In each of our regular New Bulletins Raf Nicholson writes her observations on promoting women's cricket. You can read the latest edition below.
In the last Bulletin, I reflected on my positive feelings about The Hundred, with its record-breaking crowds for women’s cricket. Overall, more people attended the women's matches in The Hundred (267,000) than attended the T20 World Cup in Australia in 2020 (136,000). That makes it the best attended women's cricket event, anywhere in the world, ever - an astonishing statistic.
It also makes the pay disparity between the male and female players in The Hundred even more inappropriate. For the inaugural competition, the highest paid woman took home less than the lowest paid man - men’s pay brackets ranged from £24,000 to £100,000, with women receiving between £3,600 and £15,000. As a result, some women - many of whom are still “amateurs” in the sense of juggling cricket with other work - had to pick between playing in the tournament and keeping their jobs. The ECB have already declared an intention to close this gap ahead of next year’s competition, which is positive.
What has been disappointing in the weeks since the tournament ended has been the inability for these crowd numbers to translate into increased crowds for any other women’s cricket. This past week, I’ve covered Finals Day of the T20 Charlotte Edwards Cup at the Ageas Bowl - 1270 people attended, which is a lot less than we used to get at Kia Super League Finals Day. I’ve also covered England’s T20 internationals against New Zealand at Chelmsford and Hove - both grounds which have sold out women’s cricket in the past, but which produced crowds of just 2,478 at Chelmsford and 2,800 at Hove.
The ECB has attracted a lot of criticism for its focus on The Hundred, seemingly at the expense of other cricket. In particular, there was an ill-judged tweet put out (and then hastily deleted) from the official Hundred Twitter account: “When #TheHundred is over and you don’t know what to do with yourself for the next year”, accompanied by a picture of a Trent Rockets player with his head in his hands. The fact that at that point there was still a month of the season to go, and plenty more cricket to watch - including men’s County Championship matches and the final rounds of the women’s Charlotte Edwards Cup and Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy - did not seem to register with whoever it was who sent the tweet.
The Hundred is all well and good, but it is definitely a concern that it becomes seen as a one-off summer festival event. The million dollar question is: how do we transfer the hype which The Hundred generated into other forms and formats of cricket? If we could get 7,500 people (the average crowd for a women’s Hundred match) attending every single home women’s international, for example, the women’s game would be in a much stronger position. The ECB, who are currently conducting their official post-tournament “review”, are hopefully grappling with this question as I write. If any Cricket Society members have any bright ideas about this then I’d be keen to hear them!
On a somewhat related note, it was disappointing to have to reluctantly abandon our hope of holding our postponed Cricket Society “Day at the Women’s Cricket” during one of the England v New Zealand internationals. With Covid restrictions still in operation at many grounds, some counties have been reluctant to offer hospitality spaces. As it happened, availability was confirmed too late for it to be viable to go ahead and still be confident of getting decent numbers. It would be a shame to end this column on a negative note, so what I will say is that I am confident that we will be able to finally bring a group together for a women’s international in the 2022 season - and I hope to see many of you there!