THE number of recreational cricketers in England and Wales is still likely to be rising sharply, according to figures compiled by the ECB from their annual survey of Focus Clubs, suggesting that the dire shortage of cricket on terrestrial television has not had a dampening effect on youthful aspirations as might be expected.
The 1,079 clubs, approved and suported by the ECB for their youth sections and attention to coaching, are responsible for a 15 per cent increase in participation across the men, women and youth sector. This follows rises of 24 per cent and 27 per cent noted in the previous two years.
Readers will not be surprised to know that youth cricket continues to attract newcomers, with 13 per cent more boys and 27 per cent more girls than last year. Men's category rose by five per cent and women by 11 per cent. The only drawback with such a select study is that little is known about the large number of clubs outside the 'focus' family. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some smaller clubs might be struggling, perhaps village ones.
Another question raised by the survey is that if youth numbers are rising year on year, there should be a proportionate increase in adult participation as youth players graduate up the ranks, but men participation has risen by only five per cent. This suggests that an age-old problem persists -- youth cricketers are still dropping out of the game at about the 18-20 year old mark.
Commenting on the increase in participation across grassroots cricket David Collier, chief executive of the ECB, said: "For cricket to be able to satisfy this increase in demand itís essential we continue to invest in building and renovating much-needed pavilions, pitches, and practice facilities. Without this continued level of investment there is no doubt we will not be able to cater for the increased number of children who are choosing to play cricket."
Off the field, the ECB said that the Sky Sports Coach Education Programme had helped deliver a 14 per cent increase in qualified cricket coaches, with the number of sessions going up by 13 per cent from 2008 levels. In the last four years this scheme has been responsible for bringing over 23,000 new coaches into the recreational game to cater for the ever-increasing numbers of children wanting to play cricket.
CHARLIE SAYS: Nevertheless there should be more cricket on terrestrial television.