I posted recently on All Stars Cricket (ASC), and why I believe that the new entry-level programme from the ECB will be good for the game.
I expect to hear soon that one of the Clubs where I coach has signed up to be an ASC Centre – I have volunteered to help out (even, perhaps, to take a lead for the first year), until the project attracts new volunteers (someone has to deliver that first session in mid-May).
But it is fair to say that the response from the wider cricket community to ASC has been mixed – mostly positive (that I have seen or heard), but by no means universally so.
I wanted to take a look at the case against. Not (mostly) to dismiss it, but rather in the spirit of the”premortem” – if, in an imagined future, the programme has failed, what were the causes; what else could we have done pre-launch, to prevent that failure.
The case against All Stars Cricket
£40 is too expensive
Undeniably true is some areas (as I have heard from coaches as far afield as West Wales, Norfolk and central London) – without subsidy (from ECB, Club or sponsors – national or local) ASC will remain out of the reach of a proportion of the target population.
£40 (and just £5 of that to the Club) is way too little
Clubs will receive just £5/player/year from ASC registrants, compared to existing junior section members who might contribute Club membership, match & training fees, kit sales. I have seen figures of more than £500 annual profit quoted, and hints that some Clubs might be generating even more revenue from their junior sections.
That’s a lot of money, and Club Treasurers around the country will have to balance any potential loss against the possible life-time value of the new mass intake.
no time / space
Again, from Clubs with junior section memberships numbered in the hundreds – grounds are already in use 5 nights/week for midweek practice and matches for junior & senior sections, and all day Saturday & Sunday for junior & senior games. There is simply nowhere to run another 60 minute session.
no retention plan (13+)
It is true that Club junior sections suffer drastic attrition as players move through the system (especially after 13, and around the time of GCSEs), and ASC does nothing explicitly to address these losses.
But ASC is billed as an entry-level programme, for 8s and younger – it is not intended as a panacea for all the ills of the game. And encouraging a stronger sense of belonging, through the participation ethos of ASC, might even go some way to keeping more players in the game for longer.
“better” players (and their parents) will be creamed off by stronger, larger Clubs
This happens already, and will undoubtedly continue under ASC – young players leave their “home” Club to further an ambition to play at a higher level…but ASC is really about addressing participation, not performance, and should help “community” Clubs to strengthen their own offering (and keep players in the game).
Yes, ambitious young players will migrate to Premier Clubs (and parent-volunteers will move with them), but there will hopefully be a much wider pool of potential “clubmen” graduating from ASC and staying put, to support the smaller Clubs where they have grown up.
ASC is a marketing exercise to generate a new audience for the ECB’s new T20 competition.
This is quite probably (at least partially) true.
It is difficult to believe that the ECB’s putative regional or city-based T20 competition, slated to launch in 2020, is designed primarily to boost participation at Club level (it is a commercial venture), and the new T20 comp will need a new audience (the “mums & kids” identified as the major growth sector for the BBL is being targeted explicitly for ASC) – but what is wrong with that? More fans paying to watch the game and buying merchandise, more players at junior and (hopefully) senior level, more volunteers.
it’s an ECB initiative
There is a level of cynicism surrounding almost every initiative emanating from the ECB – “it’s all about money (for the ECB)”; “they know nothing about the grassroots game”; “they got it wrong with [insert least favourite project here], this will go the same way”.
So – the ECB are damned if they try something new, damned if they do nothing. I would much rather see them trying to help the wider game (and putting money and support behind a project), than sitting at Lord’s or Edgbaston counting the broadcasting revenue from the international games.
To reiterate why I believe that All Stars Cricket should be a good thing for the game in England and Wales:
- new players – mass recruitment from new sectors
- new volunteers; community engagement
- free kit (even if ASC folds, the Clubs will have the bats, balls, bean bags etc. to use with their own junior sections in future)
- extensive, national outreach campaigns and marketing support from the ECB
- low cost of entry & easy access / low bureaucracy for the Clubs, especially those without an existing junior section
- (promise of) ongoing support from ECB
Not perfect, no – but surely the best idea around, right now.