England’s ‘disappointing’ World Cup failure will not hinder cricket’s growth in the region, says the managing director of the Lancashire Cricketing Board.
Bobby Denning, who has held his position since October 2013 and has worked for the LCB in various roles for 14 years, accepts that cricket faces serious challenges to arrest decreasing levels of participation.
However Denning does not agree that the fortunes of the national team play a significant role.
Talking with MM, Denning spoke in depth about the changing nature of the recreational game and the measures that his organisation are taking to adapt to the modern world.
“The game has some significant challenges,” he asserted. “I’m not saying it’s all doom and gloom, but I’m not saying it’s perfect.
“The crux of the matter is that cricket clubs face a struggle to keep their players playing. And that isn’t because England might not be as successful as, for me, if you enjoy the game, you’ll enjoy the game whether England are successful or not.
“Whether we like it or not, the recreational sportsman’s wants and needs are very different to what they used to be and the game has to respond to that.
“Life has changed and sport is not the be-all and end-all in people’s lives.”
To combat this, the LCB are looking into changes they can make to the sport at club, league and grassroots level.
This includes initiatives ranging between increasing co-operation with schools, to ‘starting to listen to what the players are saying’ about how they want to play the sport.
He said: “We have a comprehensive schools programme and there’s a huge amount of investment that goes into that. There’s always going to be a challenge getting those youngsters from a school environment into the cricket club network.
“We have a challenge in club and league participation, but we also have offers outside of the traditional club and league structure which is seeing an increase in participation.”
Although cricket participation dropped by 7% from 2013 to 2014, there has been a rise in the numbers of people playing indoor cricket and Kwik Cricket.
Meanwhile Denning said there has been a rise in the number of people playing cricket in open areas such as parks.
Denning, one of a select few level four coaches in the country, also confirmed that club cricketers have communicated to him their desire to play shorter games of cricket, with adapted start times, in order to fit the sport around their lives.
MM was speaking to the LCB chief following his call last week to improve coaching, umpiring and groundsmanship services, and to inform those who are currently members of the associations that represent those fields of the work that they can do to improve the game.
He said: “We have a clear aim in that we want a vibrant and sustainable club and league network but we can sometimes get sucked in to thinking that that’s just about the players.
“That isn’t the case because people may drop out of playing the game if the pitches aren’t up to standard, if the coaching isn’t there, if the umpiring isn’t at a standard the players want.
“People’s experience of cricket can be influenced by a coach, can be influenced by an umpire and can be influenced by a groundsman.
“We shouldn’t forget that for the game to be vibrant, healthy and sustainable we’ve got to make sure that the membership of those associations are aware of what they can offer.”
Although Denning does not think that England’s travails at the World Cup, which they exited at the group stage last week, will have an effect on his work.
Rather, as a passionate fan, he admitted to being baffled by the national team’s failures.
“It was disappointing because of the length of time that England had to prepare for the competition, England have been preparing for that competition since the back end of last summer.
“If you’re competitive but just come out on the wrong end of a result that’s one thing, but the manner of the defeats is what was most disappointing.
“I live for the game, I live and breathe it and as someone who works in cricket you want to see the national team performing.”
Here’s hoping that Denning’s leadership of the LCB will continue to improve participation in the sport, irrelevant of the failures in the professional game.
Main image courtesy of England Cricket via YouTube, thanks.