Emma Doherty (CricketEurope)
Womenʼs cricket is “At the top of the Agenda”
If I had to label my preceding article, it would definitely be something along the lines of “the consequence of a passionate mindset”. While I might have envisioned myself being like Al Pacino delivering his speech in ‘Any Given Sundayʼ, that piece was the result of emotions that were brewing for quite a long time and each syllable still strikes a chord with me, even now.
However, it is only natural to maintain equilibrium when discussing a subject as controversial as this. Therefore, this article will be used to give the North West Cricket Union an opportunity to comment on womenʼs cricket within their province, and share their exciting plans for the future.
A prevailing trend of blame steeps throughout each Union. It actually may be more common than the game of cricket itself. The North West Cricket Union are well accustomed to being the brunt of accusation. Lately, they are being reprimanded by the general public for the demise of two ladies teams. Why? Simply because many people are misinformed, lash out and rebuke the national body because they are the ones with the most responsibility. Comments are haphazardly thrown around in different settings about how the NWCU did nothing to support these teams, about how they do not care for the female side of the sport, and so on and so forth.
In reality, the NWCU are not actually culpable for assembling, creating or maintaining any womenʼs teams - that is the clubʼs obligation. They are, nonetheless, liable for supporting and acting as the metaphorical crutch for each team. This could be in terms of coaching, grants, promotion etc. Ideally, a positive correlation needs to cultivate.
For example, if each club advocates for their womenʼs team and remains vigilant as to what their needs are, it will create solidity for the Union to support them and develop the game. Lawrence Moore, the NWCUʼs PRO and Operations Director, clarified this.
He said, “the Union has a distinct duty to put support mechanisms in place that will afford the opportunity for girls to play cricket at club level, however the clubs themselves need to take a fair degree of ownership”. Furthermore, the NWCU are very much cognisant and invested with regards to the state of womenʼs cricket. Moore candidly admitted that “there is plenty of work to be done right across the spectrum at grass roots level and yes, progression of the womenʼs game is right at the top of that agenda”.
Personally, I cannot speak on behalf of all the female players in the NW, but this simple recognition will surely boost the morale amongst many, at the idea of being regarded with just as much importance. Not only is there a sound awareness that advancements need to be made, but the areas for development have already been pinpointed by the Operations Committee.
Moore illuminated this by saying, “what needs to change is the structure for helping girls into the system, but more importantly, ensuring that the club environment is ready to accommodate them when they get there”. While Peter McCartney, the NWCUʼs General Manager, added to this by commenting that “we do need to create a better player pathway for our talented athletes... the problem for us locally is where do they go after U17 level?”.
To continue, the NWCU incontestably have a clear willingness to make historical adjustments to womenʼs cricket, and are intent on closing the abnormally large gap between male and female cricket. This national body manages to remain modest however, with Lawrence Moore asserting that nurturing the growth of womenʼs cricket is “an area where the Union needs to accept that it has to improve”. He advanced by mentioning the attempts made to aid this situation, “the creation of the new Development posts certainly provides an opportunity to focus more on the progression of the womenʼs game, but there are more plans aimed a providing a more solid platform for women in NW cricket”.
Peter McCartney remains consistently optimistic about the future of womenʼs cricket, and this in itself is refreshing. He praises its growth to this particular point. “I do think we are moving in the right direction,” He confessed, “we will be launching our Strategy in 2019 and the womenʼs game will be a key part of that. There is a huge potential here in the North West to increase female participation and we must make that goal part of both the Unions and clubs strategy going forward”.
So, the Union has a strategic plan in place and a clear vision of where they want ladies cricket to be in the next, for example, five years. “The first change required is structurally and the Union is currently working on a number of proposals to create that opportunity,” Moore elaborated.
“We are actively seeking at least one woman player to sit on the Cricket Operations Committee” (this has recently been remedied by yours truly) “and pending election at the AGM on the Board of Control as well. We have started to discuss things like a dedicated womenʼs committee within the Union and independent sponsorship/funding specifically linked to the womenʼs game”.
To put it all into perspective, for the last two years, the NWCU have been avidly searching high and low for a Womenʼs Representative to sit on their committee. Now that this position has been filled, it means that things are taking a step in the right direction and hopefully the developing pace will increase.
Subtle changes have also been made that have unfortunately not been noticed by many. For the past two years, awards specifically designed to recognise the overflowing talent of many female players have been incorporated into the NW Awards Dinner. To date the winners have been Anji McPorter, Hazel Britton and Vanessa Buchanan, and it‘s safe to say that it‘s always nice for extraordinary efforts to be recognised and rewarded. Plus, the Union have also endeavoured to develop a high-profile.
David Bradley, the NWCUʼs Administrator, elaborated on this by mentioning how “Rachel McBrine does regular updates during the season... and they [the NWCU] have also attempted to raise the profile of the game locally by having some of the Womenʼs Warriors games played at the same time as high-profile games in the region”. He finished by acknowledging that “ultimately it is still a work in progress”.
Moreover, the recent proposed redundancies by Cricket Ireland have been an ubiquitous topic of conversation among many. Development Officers, Brian Allen and Colin Manson, have been influential figures when it comes to promoting ladies cricket. This can be seen by their participation in initiatives like the Primary School Blitzes.
Moore highlighted this by saying, “the number of girls involved in the youth cricket festivals over the summer are a fairly good gauge of the fact that our CDOs have been very proactive”. He progressed and said, “we would accept that the hardest part is then transferring that growth to the all-important club scene and it is that bridge that currently needs most attention”.
Overall, the message to take away from this article is that a positive working relationship needs to form between a club and their current or soon-to-be ladies team, which will then allow the NWCU to intervene to provide assistance.
At times, some clubs are surely a little guilty of pretending these teams donʼt exist, but this acknowledgement will build a solid foundation for changes to be made and naturally enough, it will create a welcoming club atmosphere. In turn, this will aid the NWCU to then develop ladies cricket to a self-sufficient status.
However, it is abundantly clear that the NWCU are inclined to take the next step, cooperate and help move womenʼs cricket up the batting order.