Recession in NW cricket as stock market values dip alarmingly
A global financial crisis occurred in 2008; the untenable financial short-sightedness triggered a credit and trust crisis. This directly resulted in a UK recession, this is when growth of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) falls, rather than grows.
Are we experiencing a recession in North-West cricket? Intuitively, playing numbers in these parts are perpetually falling; Ballyspallen, The Nedd and North Fermanagh are all examples of clubs that have withdrawn from Senior cricket in recent years, whilst the likes of Burndennet and Sion Mills have felt the pressure of dwindling resources at different times before resurging, to their great credit. Considering Senior 2; there were 10 teams in 2008, now there are a paltry 7, so a cricketer in Senior 2 can now expect 6 less seasonal fixtures.
What causes this? Well, the equation is a simple one that does not require a calculator: too many ageing players who are retiring, or no longer of the required standard, and too few young players entering the domestic scene mean ever falling playing numbers. It is a critical conundrum that needs addressed to safeguard our treasured local game. There are a plethora of reasons, and I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but let us consider two critical causes of this player drain, and suggest possible remedies:
1. Schools Cricket
The vast majority of North West cricket is played on a Saturday. So too, the lion’s share of schoolboy fixtures take place on Saturdays. Thus, it is either impossible or extremely difficult, for our young cricketers to play in both. This blatantly does not make sense; players between the ages of 11-18 will struggle to forge a relationship with a local club, and it is often this connection to a club, as well as a love of cricket, that sustains a long-term involvement in club cricket. How to remedy this problem? Schools cricket is undoubtedly a tremendous institution, and plays a vital role in player development. However, the aims and administration of schools and club cricket should be unified under the auspices of Cricket Ireland in order to engender a life-long involvement in cricket in young players in the domestic game. A simple solution? All schools cricket matches could be played on a Sunday, or indeed midweek, in order to leave to be set aside for club cricket.
2. Misallocation of resources
Regardless of the spectrum of opinions that exists, the simple fact remains; local cricket is awash with money at certain affluent clubs. A number of professional cricketers, some of whom may only possess average ability, now exist. The hierarchy and decision makers at these clubs are undoubtedly poor custodians of our beloved game; they stand indicted of sacrificing the health and longevity of our infrastructure for merely short-term artificially generated success. Surely, greater pleasure is derived from investing in an excellent youth system that could yield a dozen “home-grown” talented cricketers, rather than hiring mercenaries. Are these wealthy benefactors to blame? No; this is the basis of capitalism, and the local market certainly supports this trade. Time however, for the game’s stakeholders to take stock and reflect; would a collective club moratorium on financial rules deliver some sustainable self-regulation? Capital investment in ground facilities and coaching structures would undoubtedly deliver an excellent return on investment in the medium term.
The time for addressing this issue is now; the relevant authorities must ask themselves, where will be in 5 years time? How many Senior Clubs will feature then; and critically, what will the age demographic of our senior cricketers be? On a positive note, a quick note on the recently formed Newbuildings Cricket Club; full credit to all those involved, a tremendous achievement that should be fully endorsed and supported by Cricket Ireland.