Latest update

What does the government energy price capping mean for your club?  What’s happening to prices now?  Is forward fixing still an option?   What happens when you come off your current fixed deal? 

Our upcoming FREE online Network event Finance, funding and surviving the energy crisis will start at 7.30pm on September 29.

These are just some of the questions we will explore in the wider context of current funding and finance environment for clubs.

With a roster of external guests we hope to provide some clarity and helpful advice and support on:

  • current sources of funding – small and large – for your club development priorities;
  • improving your chances of application success;
  • where the current energy market is at and what are the options for clubs as small businesses;
  • practical guidance on energy saving including identifying your big ticket items;
  • are renewables a short as well as long-term fix?

Places are strictly limited to 100 as we have now moved to Zoom and you can book here

The event WILL be recorded and made available on the Members’ Portal afterwards. 

Other current discussions on the LinkedIn group page*:

  • Success indicators; why is everyone winning?
  • Open video trials; are they a good idea?
  • ECB Clubs and leagues newsletter survey
  • New ECB Chaiman; a change of direction?
  • Can Volunteer Awards be useful?
  • Future of county cricket
  • Please sort out sport in schools
  • Have you considered hybrid pitches?

Let’s have your comments.  And don’t forget to post yourself if there’s a burning issue that isn’t covered.

The full list of past discussions is available on our website but is also sorted by theme and listed in chronological order on the Members’ Portal.

To access the Portal if you haven’t already is a simple TWO STEP process:   

1. complete the survey which takes on average 7-8 minutes, then;

2. register on the Portal which takes 30 seconds 

PLEASE NOTE  You will not be accepted in Step 2 if you have not completed Step 1.  Them’s the rules.   But don’t wait to register on Step 2 after submitting the survey in Step 1. Try doing at the same time! 

*To access the LinkedIn links, you need to be a member and logged-on to LinkedIn

Anyone involved in running a recreational cricket club (maybe Clubmarked but not exclusively so) can join, contribute to and benefit from discussions with club peers, on everything and anything related to club leadership, management and development.

Finance, funding and surviving the energy crisis

People are bewildered.  And recent government announcements have yet to clarify things.

Some clubs are on fixed long term contracts and so insulated for now. Others are facing big hikes as theirs runs off. Or they’re on flexible tariffs already and have been seeing their prices rise daily.

There’s currently no protection for non-domestic users and it looks as though government support, when it comes, may be short term.

It’s unlikely that any energy supplier wants new customers so there’s no chance of any deals.  The leisure sector is particularly unwelcome and even if you can find another energy provider that will take the credit risk, they may want big up-front deposits.

So what’s the advice? Well ECB have republished 10 year old guidance on energy saving. But it’s not rocket science. Draft excluders!?

You probably know where your big usage is. The bar (especially cellar cooling), hot water for showers, floodlights if you have them, lighting fridges, ovens.

You can pay someone to tell you this – there will be loads of freelance energy consultants locally thanks to the property survey requirements in recent years – but you can probably watch the dial go round yourself.

There are savings to be made. But you may need to consider curtailing activities, especially in the winter. The economics are now in a different place.

Maybe the government will come to the rescue but for how long?  Or things will return to normal eventually?  But what will new normal look like?

Investment in renewables now has more of a business case – heat pumps more than PV or solar unless the Grid will buy your surplus – but it’s a longer term fix and expensive up front. Assuming you can find a commercial supplier who hasn’t more business than they can cope with.

The ECB’s County Grants scheme £10k lots, specifically targeting environmental schemes, have probably all been allocated for this year.

So we have organised this event to look at these challenges in the wider context of current funding and finance environment for clubs. With a roster of external guests we hope to provide some clarity and helpful advice and support on:

  • Current sources of funding – small and large – for your club development priorities
  • Improving your chances of application success
  • Where is the current energy market at and what are the options for clubs as small businesses
  • Practical guidance on energy saving including identifying the big ticket items
  • Are renewables a short as well as long-term fix?

Maybe by 29th September the cavalry will have come over the hill.  But we’ll take that into account too.

Places are strictly limited to 100 as we have now moved to Zoom and you can book here

We will cap as soon as we get to 100 and confirm your place along with joining details.

  Priority will be given to Network members. 

The event will be recorded and made available on the Members’ Portal afterwards. 

Club leaders survey

As Facilitator of the Network, I have written a few Club Scene articles for The Cricketer magazine over the past year.  I have now been asked to write an article about you.

Well, it’s actually about the typical club leader.  You may be typical.  You may not.  Let’s see. 

In short, I am looking to delve into the common characteristics of club leaders.  What qualifies them?  What perspectives they have.  What are their ambitions?  What do they consider success to look like?  And what would help them better deliver that?  

I am also keen to understand how much time you commit – in winter as well as summer – and doing what?  And why?

It’s an opportunity to dispel a few of the fallacies – not least that club leaders go away in September return in April – and spell out the contribution you make.

I would be really grateful if you could spare just a few minutes completing this survey – the first few have been submitted in well under 10 minutes – and the information required will be in your head. 

All the results will be aggregated and anonymised unless you give me explicit permission to include you in the article.  Yes, I am looking for a few interview candidates, too, over the next couple of weeks.

Can volunteer awards be useful?

I confess I was reticent when asked by the guys at The Cricketer online to help promote their LV Insurance Pride of Cricket awards scheme.

You will know we have a media partnership and there’s a magazine/digital subscription discount offer for Network members registering on the FREE Members’ Portal 

But nominations have been open since May and we are now in the last week before the September 1 deadline.

I am told it’s not an issue as a majority of nominations are received in this period. And, anyway, the submission process is not that onerous. The video entry option isn’t widely used and has no influence on judging so long as the story is well articulated.

I am also reticent because a) endorsing the awards might also endorse the implicit assumption that club people need to be engaged during the season before they hibernate in the winter and b) as our current strawpoll clearly indicates, people are too busy running from pillar to post during the (business end of) the season to go on holiday let alone compile awards submissions.

They get that. If so, it clearly demonstrate more listening capacity than ECB with their insistence on scheduling Clubmark renewal, Volunteer (OSCA) Awards, Playing Survey and just about everything else deadlines between April and September. Those involved in running clubs – the volunteers – know that peak admin catch-up and development planning is between October and March.

But the real reason I was reticent, was a longstanding feeling that people don’t volunteer for awards or recognition or any other aspects of a “volunteering policy”. They volunteer for cricket or their club.

Quite often recipients are embarrassed by such awards. I know I was a few years ago.

But a conversation a while ago has made me think again. It was someone a deal older, and wiser perhaps, than me who received a well-deserved and overdue county lifetime contribution gong in their mid-80s after 60+ years supporting their club.

He said no-one volunteers for themselves. It’s always for cricket or the club and that’s determined by how they started but it’s almost always by joining a club. And unlike many other awards – military medals or real Oscars, for example – it’s rarely recognition of a team or collective contribution.

So it’s very personal. Hence the embarrassment.

But, he said, if the nomination comes from the club then it almost certainly indicates your contribution is making a difference. And people appreciate that. They care. And, yes, maybe they might want to encourage you carry on. It helps salve their own embarrassment for not doing more. But perhaps, moreover, the award might just galvanise others to support you or contribute more in other ways.

So if you have want to recognise, retain, conscience salve, or galvanise, then The Pride of Cricket Awards are as good a way as any.

You can access the Awards portal by clicking on the image above.

Enough is enough

The ECB and its chief executive should know they’re in trouble when that hitherto bastion of the cricket establishment, Wisden Almanack, includes this excoriating attack in the 2022 edition published today. 

In detailing the litany of woes from Ashes to Rafiq and beyond, this paragraph quoting editor Lawrence Booth is the final thrust:

“The ethics of the bonus scandal were as bad as the optics. But there was an exit strategy, if only Harrison would recognise it: the bonus should either be returned, allowing the ECB to re-employ some of the staff whose work still had to be done, or used to broaden the game’s diversity. If, by now, he has resigned or refused the money, we applaud. If not, there is still time to undo at least part of the damage.”

From a club perspective it is the most telling.  The majority of those redundancies were amongst the most club-facing people in the ECB.  Now you may say that we haven’t noticed the difference.  That clubs have developed in recent years despite, not because of, ECB support activities.  That more money is seemingly being thrown around more generously to more clubs now than ever before.

And all of those things have a degree of truth in them.  But that’s not the fault of those ECB people working or, more likely, had worked with clubs.  They operated within parameters set for them, and then made redundant, by people who have shown they couldn’t give two hoots about the recreational game……… until it matters to them.  By that I mean Lawrence Booth’s targets and those brought in to run Participation & Growth as an adjunct of The Hundred marketing and public affairs strategy.

Make hay while the money is being scattered around because it will not last.  I used the phrase ‘helicopter money’ as that is a legitimate but largely discredited tool to boost ailing economies by getting money quickly to people who will spend it.   It was last used by Haile Selassie, personally handing out wads of devalued bank notes from the back of his vintage open-top Rolls Royce in downtown Addis, in the 1970s.  That didn’t end well either.

The county boards had their funding guaranteed for three years from last year.  And that includes the c£150k a year each county has been given for the County Grants Fund.  But, after that, things are much less certain. The clue is in the creeping ‘privatisation’ of the county board structures with many converting to charitable foundations or setting up charitable fundraising arms. 

The ‘Partnerships’ thing is about finding money from different sources.  So if your club gets funding from the local authority or local community or charitable funders, expect to be competing with your county board or ‘foundation’ in future.  And the county golf days, music events, and other fundraising – which you may think cut across your own activities – to become more frequent.  Or increasingly centralised county and ‘franchised’ area junior coaching activities under the guise of ‘Pathways’ or Chance to Shine drawing kids away from your own programmes.

But not giving two hoots doesn’t prevent the current ECB governance grab that is happening in our domain.  If you are not familiar with the ECB’s General Conduct Regulations then you need to be.  I know this has been a hobbyhorse in recent weeks but you really do need to take notice because even if you’re not an ECB Premier League club, it may well be coming to you this year and certainly by 2023.  Pressure is already being mounted in briefing calls to county boards and non-Premier leagues to ‘voluntarily’ impose on clubs in 2022. 

It is not just about on and off-field behaviour.  It is not just on the back of the Rafiq affair and the reputational risks for the ECB inherent in a largely unregulated clubs network.  Although they have gone into meltdown over a widely reported incident involving two Leicestershire clubs and a league official recently.   It’s about how far can ECB impose its authority over the club game.  The answer right now, and they know it, is not very far.   Unless you are taking their money. 

Remember the Covid ‘guidance’ to clubs while ECB negotiated with government on conditions?  They were rattled by the sounds of mutiny coming from clubs growing impatient with progress in getting back on the field.  They realised their position to deliver on any agreement with government – and pursuit of any subsequent bailout that might ultimately be required to keep the professional game afloat – could be undermined by ostensibly independent clubs and leagues doing their own thing. 

So there you have it.  The anonymous “sources close to……..” in the clubs article in the upcoming May edition of The Cricketer is me.  Not that should be a surprise as I have had two articles published in my name in recent months, as Facilitator of the Network, inferring much the same.   

That The Cricketer leads the charge on ECB shortcomings, under its newly refreshed editorial and commentary team, should have been more of a shock than that of Wisden, given its heritage as the most establishment of cricket organs.  But would founder Plum Warner be turning in his grave?  He may feel that the cricket establishment had already been deposed, in its control of the game, by reward-driven marketing men.

And I feel no need to apologise.  Judging by the responses to the members’ survey as people sign up to our Members’ Portal, you overwhelmingly wish we would take a harder stance as ‘critical friend’ to ECB or even to represent the club game more vigorously.  But the Network was never set up to take on these roles.  It was set up as a community of practice so club officers could share knowledge and learning for mutual benefit and collective advancement.  Independently, by me, as I felt someone should and, as was patently obvious through numerous discussions, the ECB just wasn’t interested. 

As I have always been at pains to point out to the many in ECB and county boards I have engaged with over the years, we are not 1,000+ seething malcontents hiding behind our website firewall or closely scrutinised access to the LinkedIn group.  Far from it, in fact, as we have worked productively for the benefit of clubs on projects with ECB including with some of the people made redundant.  We have held past webinars with others including then head of Participation & Growth, Matt Dwyer. Some of them are now involved in the Network because they have gone back to working in their original club roles or feature in our recent events because they are now working with other relevant agencies or have valuable insights to offer.

But enough is enough. It pains me to say this as someone who has previously both valued and defended the ECB and tried to promote some of the many good things done by people who genuinely cared.  But the ECB is no longer fit for purpose if its purpose includes development of the club game.   On this I stand full square with Wisden Almanack and The Cricketer

Members’ Portal launched today

It’s here at last!   The website Members’ Portal is live today.

What you’ll find:

  • Reviews:  the first release of club admin software scores and comments
  • Resources
    • repository of club development documents, articles and links, again sorted by theme and then relevance;
    • the most frequently downloaded tools in one place; 
    • and club exemplars of club development plans, constitutions, codes of conduct, risk assessments and more
  • Discussions:  all current and past sorted by theme and in chronological order with links to the LinkedIn discussion
  • Surveys:  all results of past surveys
  • Upcoming events:  details including the final webinar in the current trilogy
  • Past webinars:  all recordings and background notes and documents
  • ‘Club’ Excellence Framework ‘microsite’; background information and an invite to join the pilot

All you need to do:

  1. Take a few minutes to complete the members’ survey and tell us a bit more about you, your club, and your club development priorities to help us plan next steps and how we can better support your endeavours.  For existing members it’s here and new members here.
  2. We’ll assume you are already registered to the Network’s LinkedIn group which remains core to our activities.
  3. Then simply register on the portal with an email address or username and password here

You will get acknowledgement but your registration still needs to be approved.  It says within 24-48 hours but, so long as you have already completed the survey, we will be waiting over the next few days to approve immediately. 

Then you are free to just browse away and discover the treasure-trove of resources to aid your club development journey.  Go from the regularly updated Members’ Portal landing page each time or use the website’s drop down menu and go direct to your required pages.  And don’t forget the latest news on the Home page.

As a ‘thank you’ for registering, you will see we have a 12-month subscription deal with our media partner, The Cricketer, which means copies for less than £3 a month delivered to your door.  The deal can be shared with your clubmates, too!

The Portal will be a live continuously updated resource.  So if you are able to share your club exemplars or recommend other documents and links to online sources of information, feel free to send or signpost them.

And, just to reiterate, members’ access to the Portal is FREE (forever)! 

Club admin software reviews

They say it’s the hope that kills you. So, so much for Melbourne.  But it can only get better, right?  So here’s to a happy New Year!

Only one topic, today, as it’s an urgent one. 

Over recent years, the question of which, if any, club admin software has been a recurring theme in our discussions.  So, by now, most of us should have been using one or more proprietary products and for long enough to have formed a view as to their efficacy? 

Seemingly, but under sufferance in many cases, judging by the responses received to our Review survey, so far.  None exactly fits the bill which is surprising given the amount of time and energy, not to mention money, thrown into development of new products.

But we do not, yet, have a fully representative picture. 

So, over the next few days, can you please spend the average 3-4 minutes it is taking others to complete a review for the product (or products) your club is using here

The survey will be kept open indefinitely, with periodic promotion, to enable uptodate rolling ratings to be published.  And the comments on pros & cons are equally, if not more, valuable. 

But we need critical mass to start with, so please contribute if you can.

All other current discussions can be found on the LinkedIn page here*

*To access the LinkedIn links, you need to be a member and logged into LinkedIn.

Anyone involved in running a recreational cricket club (maybe Clubmarked but not exclusively so) can join, contribute to and benefit from discussions with club peers, on everything and anything related to club leadership, management and development.

Leadership or management? And what role can your coaches play?

Do you have:

  1. A clear vision for the Club
  2. A defined and agreed strategy
  3. A live action/development plan
  4. Allocated responsibilities for delivering the plan to those with the right competence/skill sets

Can anyone genuinely respond 1,2 3 and 4 and claim that commitment to the vision is largely unquestioned, all who need to buy in to the strategy have bought in, the plan is guiding everything the club focuses time on, and you and your committee are leading – that is inspiring, engaging, guiding, supporting, coaching, mentoring and occasionally directing – and not just managing yourselves or the few involved in delivering?

If yes, then what’s your secret?

I have had some very interesting conversations on the back of the ECBCA Zoom calls over the summer.  Primarily around the role of leadership in clubs………………..

Continued on LinkedIn here