It was announced today that the ECB has pledged £3m for a new women’s cricket six-team Super League, starting next summer. It will be a T20 tournament played in a two week block and will attract the best players from around the world as well as around the UK. This represents a hugely positive step for the women’s game.
But here’s my plea: let’s learn lessons from where we find ourselves now in the men’s game. All cricket is stuck on Sky and the game is suffering because of it. While women’s international cricket has just begun to make its presence felt on Sky, what we have here with this domestic competition is an amazing opportunity, the very start of something new with a world of potential.
The audience for this could be significant if it’s well marketed and it could start a generation of cricket-playing girls who could grow to become the generation of women who play cricket every weekend, who play for their counties, who play for the country, who play for a living or who play for fun.
Maybe there will be enough sponsorship for a few more players to be paid to play and to practise – and with practice the standard will rise. With raised standards will come an even better spectacle, which will increase interest. Girls and women will attend matches and maybe give it a try. People will write about it, talk about it, bring it into the national consciousness.
But please, please, please put it on terrestrial television. This will be the oxygen that keeps it breathing. Women’s cricket needs to be seen as mainstream and accessible. People need to come across it when they flick on the TV and sit down to watch for the first time. Players need to become household names, role models, heroes.
Women’s football is entering this territory now. It is on terrestrial television thanks to the World Cup; there are full matches being shown, highlights shows and expert discussions just like men’s football. Players are becoming better known. The game is improving. At the end of last year, 50,000 spectators piled into Wembley to watch England play Germany.
Cricket doesn’t need to compete with women’s football, it just needs to join in the fun. And by getting it on to terrestrial television, everyone can see how much fun it is.