CricketEurope owner and Managing Editor John Elder was interviewed by the Beyond The Boundary web site. The questions related to the aims and operation of the CricketEurope site as well as to Associates and non-Test cricket in general.
How did CricketEurope come about?
Originally I ran, among others, a CricketIreland site and also was contracted by the European Cricket Council to provide their site. Over several years, a group emerged of people that I had met and who were equally committed to the promotion of European Associates cricket. Recently this group has further expanded to include people interested in Associates Cricket beyond Europe.
What can you tell us about your main contributors?
We are very fortunate that our national editors are a fantastic set of people - not only are they experts on cricketing matters within their own countries but they are all highly professional, possess excellent IT skills and are totally committed to the promotion of Associates Cricket worldwide.
Where do you get your photographs, audio and video clips?
Our photos come from many sources - Barry Chambers, our Ireland editor, is also a first-rate photographer. However, one of the great things about working on CricketEurope is the huge amount of goodwill that is shown to us wherever we go - not least by professional photographers and journalists. I'll not start to name them, for fear of omitting someone from the very long list, but we really value and appreciate what they do for us and our visitors.
Audio clips are usually generated in-house; video clips come from individuals as well as the video analysts working for some of the High Performance countries.
What have you planned coverage wise for the World Cup and for the year ahead?
As you would expect, we will be highlighting the Associates' participation in the World Cup with live scores, live text commentary and photo coverage. The Calendar on the CricketEurope site will show you just how busy a schedule of live coverage we have planned for the rest of 2007.
I have noticed an increase in associate reporting on Cricinfo, is this viewed negatively as competition, or as a positive partnership in the development of associate cricket?
All international cricket sites probably view us as competition! As far as we are concerned, the more sites covering cricket the better - particularly in those areas and levels of cricket that have been neglected previously.
Have the ICC given you any help in running the site? I notice that both their and CricInfo's coverage of the Associates' game has increased since you came about. Have they been shamed into covering it?
We haven't received any direct help from ICC. We approached them with an offer to provide complete InterContinental Cup and World Cricket League coverage but they refused it, citing lack of a budget as the reason. Like everyone else, we do receive media releases and some photographs from them. On the second point, I prefer not to comment on other web sites' business.
What are the main strengths and weaknesses of CricketEurope?
I see the main strengths as the local knowledge of our national editors, their total dedication to the aims and objectives of CricketEurope, and the fact that we cover both international and domestic cricket in the leading Associate nations. Our informal management structure enables us to react quickly to problems on the ground, as recently in Nairobi when we were able to overcome the internet connectivity problems much more rapidly than some of the bigger operations present!
Are there weaknesses? If so, please let me know as we are always aiming to improve!
How do you finance your site?
That's not something I am prepared to answer publicly. However, CricketEurope is really about the promotion of cricket below Test level, and making a large profit is not a primary motivation for anybody involved.
Why do you appear to have so little advertising or sponsorship?
To date we have concentrated on the development of the product and the brand. We are now intending to embark seriously on obtaining sponsorship and advertising. If anybody out there is interested, please don't hesitate to contact us! Increased income would enable us to take on some new projects and do existing things a bit better.
Considering the valid points made by Cricinfo's managing editor Martin Williamson regarding the nature of associate cricket and the lack of commercial return of reporting detailed information, how is CricketEurope able to justify such comprehensive coverage commercially?
We have no problems providing the current level of coverage within our existing business model.
Have you plans for any future expansion? Do you intend to get more official sites, in addition to Ireland and Scotland, within CricketEurope?We are always considering, very carefully, possible expansion of the site. We are encouraging more national bodies to follow the lead of Cricket Scotland and the Irish Cricket Union and come in under the CricketEurope 'umbrella'. Both of these bodies have seen a huge increase in their site content and traffic since they joined forces with CricketEurope.
Is there really that much interest in cricket below Test level? I suspect the ICC and Cricinfo interest will disappear after the World Cup.
There is obviously a lot of interest judging by the ever-increasing traffic levels that we are experiencing - we may have to introduce additional web servers soon! We hope that the existence of CricketEurope itself actually increases that interest worldwide.
Once again, I can't speak for other sites and organisations.
Will you be changing your name now that you cover more than just Europe? Seems a strange name when you have material covering the rest of the world.
Yes, we have considered a name change and I'll leave it to you to guess what that new name might be. We started as CricketIreland, then became CricketEurope, so what next?
Is it a danger for CricketEurope to outgrow its viability, as happened to Cricinfo before partnering with Wisden? If this were to occur would editorial decisions based on commercial viability be detrimental to the coverage of affiliate cricket?
As both owner and managing editor it is important that I ensure that the site doesn't outgrow its viability. However, I can assure you that we will not cease to cover any of our existing countries or areas for commercial or financial reasons. Likewise, commercial concerns do not affect what we write or what we choose to cover.
I will stress again that CricketEurope is all about promoting cricket in the non-Test nations. Within reason, that comes before all financial and commercial considerations, and I can confidently state that this view is held by everybody involved with CricketEurope.
What are your views on the responsibility of media, both mainstream and niche, to promote associate cricket for the general health and well-being of the game?
I think it is the responsibility of all commercial cricket media to promote the game at all levels, but only in so far as their business models and financial viability permit. I don't go along with the ridiculous criticism that has been aimed at some web sites for not providing blanket coverage of certain levels and aspects of cricket. Some things can be done better by sites that concentrate on particular areas. At the same time I don't think web sites and individual journalists should go about 'knocking' the fantastic efforts that are going on to try to develop and promote cricket in non-Test countries.
Do you forsee a time in the future when there is no longer a gulf in playing abilities and opportunity between the traditional cricket nations and the associates?
Not really. The Test countries generally have a much deeper cricket culture than even the leading Associates. This reflected in more players, better pitches and other facilities, greater media coverage, lots of television time, more schools cricket, and so on. Cricket is one of the top two or three sports in every Test country. They even have better climates and longer playing seasons than most of the currently top-rated Associate nations.
Developing a cricket culture, increasing public and media awareness, getting an effective and professional administration, developing a proper long-term structure for the game, producing enough players at the base of the pyramid in each country - these will all take a very long time, if ever, in the top Associates.
Do you think any Associate countries can attain Test status?
I think Kenya has the best chance - purely because they have the climate that enables people to play cricket most of the year on good pitches. Mind you, who knows what the ICC will do in the future? I would like to see a second level of regular five day cricket in which the top five or six associates compete initially. Every four years, the top-rated of these teams would receive Test status for four years in place of the bottom-rated of the Test countries. Effectively that would mean that Zimbabwe and the top Associates would be fighting for the tenth Test place. Why not?
What are the main weaknesses that you have seen in Associates' cricket?
Lack of playing depth, poor pitches, lack of professional infrastructure for the game. Watching the World Cricket League tournament in Nairobi recently I was struck by just how poor was the bowling of most of the teams - the batting seemed to be so much better.
How can Associates hope to bridge or reduce the gap between their current position and that of Test nations?
They need to improve the structure and quality of their domestic cricket, for a start. Most Associates don't have anything between club and international cricket - in Ireland, for instance, they decided to abandon the interprovincial competition about three seasons ago because of a packed schedule. This was, to my mind, complete madness - especially given the very poor standard of club cricket. There must be an intermediate level of cricket in every country if they want their players to develop and also enable their up and coming players to compete against each other. The constant diet of 50 over cricket is also a major weakness.
Of course, the senior international teams need to be exposed to better opposition. Associates should be playing Test nations and their A sides more often. Unfortunately, it doesn't help when the rules don't require counties to release their Irish, Scottish, Danish or whatever players for ODIs except against Test nations.
Youth international teams in Associate countries also need to play against better opposition than they do at present. Players and teams only get better by playing against better opposition. For instance, Ireland's domination of the European youth championships probably isn't in the best interests of Irish cricket.
Finally, but equally importantly, pitches need to be improved significantly in a lot of the Associate countries. The effect on the resultant standard of cricket would be dramatic (but quite traumatic for many bowlers brought up on poor pitches).
What needs to be done to make it worthwhile for people such as Ed Joyce to stick with his home country? Would it need the ICC to step in with regulations and subsidies?
Unfortunately, as things stand, the only thing that will persuade players such as Joyce to remain with their own country is if these countries had Test status. When their only chance of playing at the highest level is to opt for another country, then it is only natural that they do so.
Perhaps countries that select players who learned their cricket in Associate countries should be required to pay some significant amount (say 50,000 pounds) to the board of the country concerned?
My preference would be not to allow transfers of national allegiance at all. If you play for a country at any level (from under 13 upwards) then you can't switch to another country later in your career.
With some luck, and support from the 'Big 8', Cricket could flourish in Scotland and Ireland, but do you honestly think it will grow much further in the likes of Holland and Denmark, where the influence of the British media or Commonwealth immigration is minimal?
Actually, emigrants to Denmark and The Netherlands appear to be forming an ever-increasing proportion of the cricketing community in those countries. This gives me some grounds for optimism that cricket can expand significantly in both of them. I know there are various initiatives under way and I believe that it is possible, with these ethnic influxes, to make cricket flourish in Denmark and The Netherlands to something like the levels in Ireland and Scotland.
Do you the believe the richer cricket boards such as India, England and Australia should have an obligation to support associate cricket?
Of course I do. Given that some of them are keen enough to look to the Associate countries as a source of players for their domestic and international sides, one might expect that they be a little more generous in their financial and moral support of their non-Test neighbours.