Live-Streaming – A View from Pembroke Cricket Club.

Live streaming of cricket in Pembroke Cricket Club started in 2019 and has gone from strength to strength since. The stated aim, not always met, of the Pembroke streaming team is to cover all Pembroke’s home fixtures in Open and Women’s cricket. 

Some weeks this can mean there are five games to be broadcast. This week sees the Women’s Thirds on Wednesday evening and Firsts on Thursday evening, Friday the Veterans, that is Ireland Over 50’s play England Over 50’s and then the weekend sees the Open Fourths at home on Saturday and Sunday. Over the course of a season this means over 50 games per season are streamed. So far this season 16 games have been streamed and the YouTube channel presently has over 250 videos of games, highlights and edited content from the past 5 years. 

This work is undertaken by a small but devoted team of volunteers and being a relatively small operation, everyone helps wherever and however they can. Members of the team are usually at the ground an hour before the scheduled start to set up the cameras, microphones and set up the link on YouTube. Once the game is over and the stream ended, the team takes a further 30 minutes to dismantle the equipment and put it away ready for the next game. There is a strong time commitment and the efforts of those who assist is always gratefully acknowledged. 

Pembroke have provided the streaming team with total support and even with a home for the equipment. It was the foresight of one individual back in 2019 who started all this coverage, and his work has been incredible. Always looking for improvements, always searching for updates. The time invested by our one true expert must amounted to many hours, at games, at home and never really being off duty. Unpaid and often unnoticed work that must happen for any service to exist.

The normal set up for games is two cameras, one fixed on a sightscreen, to provide a straight view of the wicket and the other is a hand operated camera for closeups and ball by ball tracking. Our commentators work closely with the cameraman/director/producer, and we have managed to put together a diverse group of commentators, each bringing their personality and cricket knowledge to the table, but also opportunities for anyone else who wishes to try commentary, whether they be from Pembroke or not. Last weekend saw several commentators take a turn at the microphone, including Jake Bell. Whilst Jake is a very young lad, he loves his moments on the microphone and was left to take it on by himself for a few overs, whilst others took a comfort break. Furthermore, this Wednesday commentary is being undertaken by an all-female crew with Jenny Sparrow of Merrion and Vanshika Shukla on the microphones. 

All the hard work and time committed by the streaming team is being recognised as the number of subscribers has passed 930 and a self-imposed target of 1,000 subscribers is now within reach. (If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider adding your account today).

Our audience is worldwide, but the majority are in Ireland. Club members who can’t make it down to the ground, players at away games who want to know how the game at Sydney Parade is going, players and spectators at the game being streamed will often tune in at the ground, for replays, for commentary. Friends and family of both teams have taken the opportunity to watch games and individuals from around the world. Also, Pembroke members who are not currently in Ireland have enjoyed catching up with the action. It gives people a chance to remain up to date and continue feeling like members despite being overseas. 

The list of countries in which games of cricket from the Leinster leagues are being watched is amazing. We have had people staying up late into their mornings to stay with a game from Australia. Viewers have logged in from Ireland, the United Kingdom, India, Bangladesh, Australia, Pakistan, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, the United States of America, U.A.E., Bangladesh, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Turks and Cacos Islands, and Türkiye. And this list is probably not exhaustive. 

Some of the Irish viewers have been known to tune in to find out when a game will finish just enable them to time their arrival to collect players. Others may be unable, due to personal circumstances, to get to the ground to watch and this is the only way they can watch Pembroke cricket live. 

Our view is far wider than just numbers. Streaming has also proved to be a boon in attracting members to attend games in person. It appears that many people will tune in for the start of a game and upon seeing the game, the score, the weather or even whether the bar is open, will make the trip down to the ground that they may not have done previously.

So how does the balance stand? Is it worth the investment in time and money? If you were considering starting from scratch, what would you need, what would you get out of it? Firstly, I must firmly emphasise that none of Pembroke’s coverage would work without Niall Walsh. His consistency, his time commitment, his willingness to turn up, his technical knowledge and his commitment to excellence is unsurpassed. The rest of us involved in the streaming are merely standing on the shoulders of one giant. 

Niall has previously outlined to interested parties contacting him how a club can start streaming for a minimum financial cost, but it is the unaccounted costs that must be acknowledged and dealt with. How many games do you wish to stream, is it all teams or just selected games? As well as pictures, do you have a commentator willing to sit and chat about the game, about cricket, about anything, for up to 8 hours in one day?

Commentary can add a huge amount to your stream. It enables viewers to tune in and listen to YouTube as if it were a radio broadcast whilst they continue with their day. It paints a picture and can provide views, opinions or even just updates to your stream. It allows viewers to do other things and be notified when there is action worth watching, such as wickets, or landmarks reached. It carries your broadcast to another level especially compared to single fixed camera streams. It connects your viewers to the game, to your club and strengthens bonds.

Whilst I have already mentioned Niall, there are several others who contribute and participate and without whom the stream would not be as wonderful as we think it is. Amanda Dunlop has quickly learnt camera work, directing and how to break down the equipment at the end of a game. James Cresswell, Graham Mooney, Charlie Veprek and Prasanth Nair have all taken stints on the microphone this season and others have taken a turn at the mic over the years, and all have been roadies breaking down sets. Jake Bell is always available to help, and the entire club seem to have offered help or assistance or feedback at some stage.

The feedback received by the streaming service has been so positive and welcome. Players and umpires enjoy reviewing a game, perhaps for one incident, perhaps the entire game. Feedback comes from many sources, face to face, the YouTube live chat feature, WhatsApp and text messages and it is all welcome.

Thanks are also due to each and every scorer, Pembroke or otherwise, who live scores the game. It enables the stream to carry graphics, adding to the professional look produced on screen.

The support of the Club and of its members is vital to any streaming service and Pembroke is no exception. Without viewers, would we continue? Without financial support, could we continue to improve the stream and the service? 

It is time consuming; it can be tedious, it can be difficult. The Irish weather plays its part with the streaming as well as the cricket. Being huddled under a gazebo whilst the rain teems down all-around electronic equipment can be disheartening. However, knowing you are providing a valuable service to people, means that actual numbers don’t matter. A Woman’s Division 3 game on a damp Tuesday can be a real test of commitment when you see 6 or less viewers online, but we try to provide the same service in those games as we do for Bob Kerr All-Ireland First XI games.

Streaming gives all of us a tremendous feeling of satisfaction and there can be no better way to watch a game than from the commentary ‘box’. Is it worth it? Well, I can only speak from personal experience, yes, it is. We are a good group of people working together in harmony, providing a service which is appreciated, and we hope we can continue to grow streaming, not just in Pembroke but in other clubs. Merrion have streamed games and it has encouraged others to follow suit. 

Already Clontarf, The Hills and Balbriggan are showing games online and other Clubs in all regions are looking at streaming. It is the future it won’t diminish your crowds and could be a way of expanding your club’s reach into the community. Carrickfergus have launched a radio stream for their games and perhaps this is the ideal way to get into the area of broadcasting games. 

Communication with your viewers, with your club is vital. Consistency and clear messages about the aim of your work online, whether it is covering only certain teams, or certain weekends is needed. People don’t like having to search IF a game is being covered. In Pembroke the perception, and indeed the reality, is that all home games are covered, and people expect the stream to be there. An example of this was the weekend the streaming team took a couple of days off and all weekend I was fielding queries and messages asking where the stream was. 

Pembroke Cricket Live has had 146,902 views since April 2019 and we all hope it continues to grow and prosper into the years ahead.

Keep it simple, take small steps. It has taken Pembroke’s streaming service five years and a lot of learning and work to get where it is today. We are proud of our contribution to Leinster cricket, and we are looking forward to the future with optimism.