By Charles Randall
1 December 2014
Umpires and scorers will become the first group to be consulted by the ECB about an apparent decline in club cricket.
The Association of Cricket Officials are asking all umpire and scorers to complete an online questionnaire on various aspects of the recreational game. This is the first step in the ECB's attempt to arrest what appears to be a downward trend in playing activity.
The survey has been described by the ECB as a unique opportunity, though umpires – a group with a very close view of the game – have been widely consulted for insight during various official investigations in the past.
The ECB in a statement said: “The survey is designed to give ECB Association of Cricket Officials a greater understanding of how best to serve the needs of recreational cricket officials at all levels of the game.”
Paul Bedford, the ECB officer with responsibility for the recreational game, made a plea last week to the Club Cricket Conference and National Cricket Conference for their support in this project covering England and Wales, involving all stakeholders in the game.
Alf Langley, chairman of the Club Cricket Conference, welcomed the ECB project. “Increasing the number of players and enhancing their enjoyment is the key to our existence,” he said. “Any drop-off in participation would be a worry, and attitudes do seem to be changing for whatever reason. I'm sure the club sector will give the ECB as much assistance as possible.”
The recent setting-up of the National Asian Cricket Council should help the ECB process, as the role played by the ethnic sector in recreational cricket is not yet fully understood. For example, high ethnicity can take club cricket in a different direction in some parts of the country, and the reasons why some groups prefer ethnic cricket to mainstream might hold the key.
Gordon Hollins, the ECB chief operating officer, said that the survey was designed to build on the detailed insights gained from ECB's second National Cricket Playing Survey last year, which analysed 37,000 responses from amateur cricketers. He added: “The findings will help inform our wider plans to encourage more people to become match officials.”
The online questionnaire is expected to take about 10 minutes to complete and all respondents will entered into a prize draw for cricket vouchers.