Fourteen million people participate in cricket in England and Wales. Yep, you read that right! How do we know that a quarter of the population plays, participates in, or follows sports? Because the ECB told us so in its annual report last week. The Governing Body seems to have taken a largely Westminster approach. Tell them boldly and pray that no one digs into the details. how bold? Well, their sizable numbers are only 27 percent higher than they were three years ago.
If one in four of us is really into cricket, you would have thought that few school children would know who the captain of England is. One Sport Inc. Pathak, a teacher, got in touch to discuss the uptick he was seeing in the game. Although he doubted that some of the 150 youths he taught would know who Ben Stokes was. He then went on to test his hunch and reported back that in class 30, just one student answered his challenge “Sir, is he a cricketer?”
It’s World Cup-winning hero Ben Stokes, who made headlines in a high-profile court case, took time off to address mental health challenges – again crossing over to the wider news agenda – and now heads to England’s Test team from the bottom up. has been appointed for. of world ranking. Stokes, Andrew Flintoff’s successor, in turn succeeded Ian Botham, none himself. Once a blue moon cricketer who has been able to transcend his profession.
Immersed in any sport, it is very easy to fall into the trap of assuming unrealistically high recognition among the general public. I’ve done it myself, even with what so many top athletes have pointless answers on pointless. Maybe we just shrug off the title of ‘superstar’.
The results are not modest, either for those who lead the game or those who pursue careers on the playing field. The impact of this can be seen in the sponsorship market, which is becoming increasingly scientific to the detriment of those who in the past have managed to speak the game bigger than the reality of their true fan bases.
Right now, commercial support is hard to find as the global economic slowdown collides with a rapid transition from old-fashioned billboard advertising to a digital world of followers and likes. Britain’s Olympians and their sports are bearing the brunt of this. Similarly there are many international events in smaller sports that are struggling to balance the books given low ticket prices and low sponsor interest.
The ECB has so far managed to buck the trend, as evidenced by its roster of big-name sponsors and a profit of £21m last year – driven by revenues of £303m, a third more than in pre-pandemic 2019. . The challenge for the ECB, then, is to turn its (to my ears, as scrutinized by a class of children) unreliable claim of public engagement into reality, before the tide of data turns down and the truth emerges. .
Be careful what you wish for
After flagging last week’s plight of Walton Casuals, facing mid-table and oblivion in the seventh tier of English football, I was taken by an article by Maidstone United co-owner Oliver Ashe, who had just finished fifth. level has been promoted. , Read this and you’ll forgive the owners if they always want to be short of promotion to the National League. And the same is true at the top and bottom of the football ladder. In short, the cost of operating in higher leagues often far outweighs the increased income. Player pay, stadium upgrades, increased security and – at lower levels – even increased travel, all add up.
Clubs such as Walton Casuals can incur losses of up to £250,000 per year. A League Two director once told me that you start each season in that division hoping to lose £500,000.
The problem is that the supporter base is too thin to sustain professional and semi-professional clubs below the highest level. And when teams are promoted the fan numbers are simply not enough. So the game has to rely on owners who are willing to keep the money tap running, whether they are philanthropic, commercial, cocky, or shoot-for-the-moon ambitious.
Returning to the topic of recognition, engagement numbers in lower league football are very insignificant, just as they are in shorter games. Non-league presence measured in the hundreds or even a few thousands does not constitute a strong base on which to compete in the market for sensible sponsorship dollars.
Philanthropic and corporate social responsibility budgets are targeted to strengthen or replace traditional sponsorship arrangements by the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This is the reality of the tools of data science. To invest beyond the realistic value of a sponsorship deal, small football clubs traditionally rely on local businesses to demonstrate local community commitment. This too will be squeezed into the digital age. Such local arrangements would be particularly affected by an economic downturn. A recession could bring a reckoning to English football.
you better bet
I enjoyed the Sky Bet EFL play-offs on Saturday. Neither Sunderland AFC nor Wycombe Wanderers had a betting company as a shirt sponsor, but Sky Bet itself was highly visible. Nine Premier League clubs have betting logos on the front of their shirts, and now the government is about to ban them. But only for PL teams, not every other club from the EFL Championship.
I enjoyed the Sky Bet EFL play-offs on Saturday. Neither Sunderland AFC nor Wycombe Wanderers had a betting company as a shirt sponsor, but Sky Bet itself was highly visible. Nine Premier League clubs have betting logos on the front of their shirts, and now the government is about to ban them. But only for PL teams, not every other club from the EFL Championship down the line.
Just as Tracy Crouch’s independent review of football has considered allowing alcohol to be consumed in League Two and National League stands, the opportunity for beer sales can currently be enjoyed by clubs below these levels. Therefore, betting seems to be another vice that is considered necessary for the evil of the good of the lower reaches of the game. A curious morality drama.
Ed Warner is the president of GB Wheelchair Rugby and writes at sportinc.substack.com