Sport England £195m COVID-19 funding package

Sport England is making up to £195 million of funding available to help the sport and physical activity sector through the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. 

The package includes a £20 million Community Emergency Fund, which is now open for clubs and community organisations to bid into. 

Grants between £300 and £10,000 are available.

Funding sources

This page is only accessible by members registered on the Members' Portal

Club clothing – New Year survey

Did your old coach ever tell you that ‘you can look like a cricketer, even if you can’t play?’  Does that principle extend to looking like a team?  Does uniformity improve the team culture and performance?  Is or could it be a nice little earner for the club through sponsorship and/or supplier kickbacks?  Do you benefit from the brand profile of members wearing club casual and training gear in the local community?

But what are the practical challenges? What brand?  Price or cutting edge design?  Can you get enough people to wear it?  How long does it take to get everyone looking the same – how many generations of club kit are on display in your teams?  Do you need to subsidise?  Does it suck up all your shirt sponsors money?  Are the big brands affordable – will your younger players wear anything less?  Can the smaller or local brands deliver what you need?  And what happens if they withdraw from the market or go bust?  Or just leave your disgruntled members with undelivered kit in July having paid their cash in March.  Or worse still, the club left with piles of unwanted and unsaleable stock.

So what do you do?  What are the considerations?  New to the field?  Or nursing burned fingers? Have you battled through the minefield that is club kit provision?  

Whether yes or no, it is a recurring theme in past discussions and a subject ripe for a definitive view of who is doing what, who the favoured suppliers are, what people are paying and solutions to the key challenges.

So please take a few minutes to respond to this short survey.  All responses will be treated in confidence and only anonymous aggregate results will be published, for Network members and respondents to the survey, by the END OF JANUARY.  

You will find the survey HERE

In the meantime, post your comments in the accompanying discussion for members on the LinkedIn group.

The strange death of English cricket

I have been asked to explain why I say the much quoted data on playing numbers is ‘spurious’. Any number of articles refer to the loss of 150,000 regular players since 2005. The ECB hierarchy were questioned on it again this week in a parliamentary appearance before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. There was no challenge; those numbers appear to have been internalised by the sport’s leadership.

The 150,000 comes from a selective interpretation of results from Sport England’s Active People survey – a phone canvass of several hundred thousand people a year to find out how many had played any of 30 funded sports in the past month – between 2005 and 2016. You can see the results year-by-year on a one page Excel sheet for yourself.

150,000 is the difference between the peak 428,000 figure (2008-9 as it happens, not 2005) and the final figure from the last survey in 2015-16. It’s a nice round headline-grabbing number. 150,000 fewer cricketers equals cricket in crisis.

But look again at the data. It’s a bit volatile – it jumps around from one year to the next, up and down – so how robust is the methodology? Were you ever phoned by Sport England and asked what sports you played? Do you know anybody who was? And what if you were phoned in February asking about the previous month? Or, in a hurry to get rid of the pollster, you skipped through the list of sports forgetting to admit to the annual office game against the accounts department you mentioned the year before?

Because that’s what it was seeking to measure. Any cricket experience, at any point, from the Test arena to the beach. It’s not asking if you play club cricket once a month. When it did do that – in a separate survey – the figures were far more stable. In fact, they actually registered a statistical increase!

Maybe that’s why Sport England canned the Active People survey after 2016. They would probably say there was a change of priorities and their focus is now on levels of physical activity, not the playing of individual recognisable sports, despite the fact they continue to fund those sports heavily. The cynic might suggest they were not too confident about the credibility of the data.

So why are those in cricket so prepared to accept the 150,000 slow death narrative? For some, it no doubt suits a purpose. On the one hand, it’s not unknown for organisations to exagerrate the scale of the problem to amplify an achievement. Creating an urgent need or recognising a crisis is a basic component of most organisational change strategies. And, on the other, there are those from an ideological perspective who welcome categoric proof of the game’s decline from the end of free-to-air coverage.

The ECB’s Select Committee response points to the complex change environment in which sport operates. That’s increasingly unhealthy and/or time-challenged people doing other or different things. We all see that, so it should be acknowledged when clubs have held things relatively steady in the face of the challenge.

The Network’s recent player numbers survey demonstrates this is the case over the last 10 years. Extrapolating the results, it shows a regular club playing population (aged 16+) of around 180,000 which is consistent with the Sport England club cricket findings. And 300,000 under 16s. Of course, players are far less available than in the past – 64% of clubs say so – and this is hitting the number of teams and Sunday cricket in particular.

But while we can all name clubs that are no longer around, or have merged, the number is surprisingly small. The anticipated shakeout from around 6,000 clubs at the early 2000s launch of Clubmark – which many saw as ECB goldplating Sport England’s safeguarding template to better identify the winners – has not happened. There are still around 6,000 clubs. If there was a big shakeout, it happened much earlier with the disappearance of semi-professional manufacturing company and industry institutional teams in the economic restructuring of the 1980s.

The real challenge now is for cricket to ensure it is in a pivotal position to play a key role in addressing those societal issues, responding to the ‘change environment’. That’s in schools and other community groups and better meeting the needs of those who might embrace, or return to, team sport rather than individual activity or none. Only clubs can provide the local infrastructure to support delivery of that effort. The welcome ‘Inspiring Generations’ ECB strategy bullet points the way forward, but it needs the appropriate funnelling of resources to make it a reality. And a willingness to listen to and build on the club experience.

Are you negligent or just a nuisance?

Bolton v. Stone [1951] is a leading House of Lords case in the tort of negligence, establishing that a defendant is not negligent if the damage was not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of their conduct. Mrs Stone was hit by a cricket ball which had been hit out of the ground; Mr Bolton was a member of the club committee.

This case featured in The Guardian today – see http://bit.ly/2MLM8HV – SHOULD be familiar to everyone who runs a club. It offers some comfort if you have ever worried about balls being hit out of your ground.

But what is foreseeable? And has it changed since 1951 with bigger bats and more building around clubs?

If not negligence, what about nuisance? Another famous piece of case law with a flying cricket balls context is Miller v Jackson [1977] where Mr Jackson was chairman of Lintz CC. Fortunately the lead judge in Court of Appeal was MCC member Lord Denning!

But risks are getting closer to home. It’s one of the reasons we incorporated; to provide the comfort of limited liability for club officers. But that doesn’t remove the increasing risk of dealing with these issues and local authorities’ insistence on expensive netting, covered in a previous discussion here http://bit.ly/31fZem4

Perhaps the most definitive survey yet on recreational playing numbers

You will no doubt have seen regular media stories of the ‘slow death of recreational cricket’ variety in recent years. These are often based on spurious data on the number of playing recreational cricketers or disappearance of local town and village cricket clubs.

Ahead of a forthcoming article in The Cricketer on the health of recreational cricket and the potential impact of this summer’s England success, the Cricket Club Development Network is undertaking perhaps the most definitive survey yet on recreational playing numbers and factors influencing those numbers.

Please take the few minutes required to complete the survey on behalf of your club HERE. It needs no special knowledge beyond a reasonable awareness of the playing profile of your club and how this has developed in recent years. If you are no longer or involved or there is someone in you club better placed to respond, then please feel free to forward this message.

The data and information collected will be only be used in aggregate by The Cricketer and the Cricket Club Development Network totally anonymously in any subsequent article unless you are contacted directly by The Cricketer for your explicit consent.

Please complete the survey as soon as possible and by October 13 latest.

Thank you in advance for your time.


John Swannick
Moderator
Cricket Club Development Network

Cricket Club Development Network: doing what it says on the tin

Ask anyone who runs a cricket club what preoccupies them and the list will look little different to the concerns of anyone running a small (or not so small) business: cashflow; finding the capital to invest in maintaining and improving facilities; recruiting and retaining good people; developing and differentiating a quality product to confront ever increasing competition; navigating the rapidly changing social and business environment in which the organisation operates; and grappling with the growing complexity of regulation and stakeholder expectation. Little wonder that the burden of sustaining the heritage, as temporary guardians, of often historic and socially (and sometimes economically) significant local community institutions, can be a lonely and long-term commitment.

Yet there is little business support specifically geared to the needs of recreational sports clubs in general and cricket clubs in particular. The advisors in local county cricket boards are mainly qualified cricket coaches with limited business experience. Their inevitable focus is on club development in terms of promoting better players, playing facilities, and mediating appropriate policy and practice coming down from the England & Wales Cricket Board. Their role is supportive and can add significant value at the tangents where it touches the clubs’ agenda, but the relationship is rarely core to clubs’ day-to-day operational existence.

The expertise in running cricket clubs is in clubs. Forging professional expertise and personal passion, the volunteers who run clubs are as likely to call on their own experience and knowledge, or seek advice and guidance from the networks that form their personal hinterland, as they are to draw on the professionals in cricket’s governing structure. That expertise involves applying the strategic, management and functional capabilities required to run a business to running a cricket club.

That’s why the Cricket Club Development Network was formed in 2015. Its aim was to do what it says on the tin; to provide a mutual support network for those running clubs committed to broad long-term development objectives. It is run by club officers, with club officers, for club officers; a peer-led, peer-driven community of practice sharing knowledge and experience, sources of information and signposting resources to better enable its members to take on the challenges they face.  It anticipated that pooling and sharing expertise will expand the sum of knowledge across the Network, help fill knowledge gaps in individual clubs, and create a wealth of information and resource that could be cascaded down to all clubs. Although, initially, it has targeted Clubmark or aspiring Clubmark clubs, as an identifiable subset of the 6,000 clubs in the UK more likely to be focused on broad development objectives, the Network is open to officers of all clubs.

It is a virtual network based on LinkedIn, a professional networking platform with groups for almost every conceivable profession, trade and interest. Pre-launch research showed over 50% of club chairmen were already registered on LinkedIn – reinforcing evidence of the professional complexion of the community – and only one click away from Network membership. There was no need to set up an expensive bespoke membership platform; cyberspace is awash with such ‘churches without congregations’.

The Network now has 720 members representing nearly 700 clubs. That’s 40% of all Clubmark clubs around the country from Cornwall to Durham, Norfolk to Dyfed. Our original 50% recruitment target was based on the LinkedIn membership research and the likely attraction of such a network to the broad mass of club officers. Some have been in post for years and may not see the need for a network. Others would inevitably be deterred by its virtual nature.  But many of the current members were new to LinkedIn when they joined and the membership profile traverses the age and experience range of the club officer community. So that 50% target is now a minimum and we are actively seeking members through a variety of channels beyond an inexact mailing list gathered from Play Cricket and ‘word-of-mouth’ promotion by the many advocates in the Network.

The recruitment effort could be transformed by ECB and county board endorsement. But we have never sought that. We have sought open dialogue and regularly update key ECB people on our progress. Inevitably there is suspicion, in some quarters, around an initiative that is not driven or sustained by the centre. Undoubtedly, that is not helped by a rigorously enforced policy to exclude from joining all whose primary purpose is not as a club officer.  However, that policy is important to promoting open, full and frank discussion which would not happen if professionals were part of the Network, even as passive observers. Learning is as valuable from sharing mistakes as successes.

The independence of the Network, mirroring the strongly federated nature of the cricket club community, is a critical part of its value proposition. We are a community of practice, bound by a common interest in growing and promoting the game in the local communities in which our clubs operate. It is a grassroots group, facilitated but not led by any one individual or group of clubs. There is no hierarchy and members represent clubs across the full spectrum from premier league to village green. The core challenges of running a club are largely the same, irrespective of size, and there is as much to learn from successful small clubs as from successful big clubs. The history of communities of practice is littered with examples which failed because the common interest was too weak, diluted by emerging factions, or agendas too obviously driven from the top or outside the community. The Network has to be a forum free to evolve a coherent club perspective and not some imposed internal or external manifesto.

That said, one of the founding objectives of the Network is to promote increased understanding of club interests and to overcome the historical mistrust between clubs and centre which so obviously impinges on effective implementation of any strategy for recreational cricket. That is only deliverable if we are focused on the highest common factors not lowest common denominators. We are pleased the ECB asked for our support in testing the online Clubmark 2017 framework and the new club development portal; most of those involved in that testing were recruited through the Network. We welcomed the opportunity to present well-considered concerns and recommendations, in a Network webinar with ECB’s participation and growth team, to contribute to the success of All Stars Cricket.   And, more recently, there have been webinars with relevant ECB teams on marketing, communication and digital solutions.  But clubs have to be involved in developing, not just delivering, strategy and its component programmes.

There are times and issues in which the clubs can also lead. If the Network can effectively harness the cumulative knowledge, experience and personal and professional hinterlands of those involved. It promises a vastly greater intellectual property resource than is possible at the centre. Take, for example, the considerable challenge represented by the EU General Data Protection Regulation which ALL clubs will need to comply with. It potentially far-reaching consequences for clubs’ membership administration, communication, marketing, team and match management. Clubs using external third-party software for storing information, collecting player availability, and sending emails or App messages will need to have data sharing agreements in place. It is a threat to continuing use of Play Cricket and ClubSpark in their current form. And there are exacting obligations for data storage and reporting of breaches with punitive fines for getting it wrong. In the Network, awareness of the implications was discussed by professional and functional experts in our membership for months before any guidance was issued form the centre. I would expect this to evolve over time into emergent best practice saving time and cost reinventing the wheel.

Harnessing the intellectual property or, at least, collating the captured knowledge, information, and signposted resources from four years activity is beginning shortly. It is already available to members in the back library of past discussions should they wish to wade through the list.  But survey and anecdotal evidence suggest much has been imbibed along the way. I, for one, can testify to the time saved, mistakes avoided, best practice influenced and ideas sown through the Network’s deliberations. I hope, as a result, my club is more future-proofed than it was four years ago. Ultimately, I would like the leaders of several thousand other clubs to be able to say the same.

If you would like to join the Cricket Club Development Network, apply here, connect to me on LinkedIn or email john@swannick.com. Please ensure your club officer credentials are in your LinkedIn profile or advise me separately.