It is my belief that every sport needs spectator support and cricket is no exception. Apart from the next few months where we virtually expect no spectator support, cricket has been lacking in spectators for some time. Lucrative T20 leagues seem to be the only thing that can pack a cricket stadium, which many don’t even consider to be real cricket. This format accounts for only one-third of the game, so what about the other two-thirds?
The world has noticed the decline of spectators at international cricket matches but this dilemma didn’t start at the international level, this is particularly evident at the grass roots level and alarmingly so at the high school level.
Personally, I have worked as a cricket administrator in Manchester and realized the start of this trend. The only persons who would travel from Manchester to neighbouring parishes for the cricket matches were the players, the coaching staff and a few administrators. Pitiful.
Whose responsibility is it to get spectators to matches? Let’s break it down.
- Players, regardless of the level, have a responsibility to invite family, friends, girlfriends or boyfriends to come and see them play. One would think this is the primary source of fans and spectators.
- The schools (or ISSA, perhaps) should, more than any other entity, do better to get spectators to matches. Students are encouraged to attend netball, football and track and field. As for cricket, it seems as if time off to view a match is not encouraged.
- Clubs and Parish Associations, the administrators in short, must step up and do what they have to do to get spectators to the matches.
- The Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) must do something to get spectators in the stands at Sabina Park. At a national and regional level, the association must find ways to put more resources and effort into promoting, educating and advertising the teams, matchups or even personalities around the teams.
- Sponsors, or corporate entities, can also give schools incentives to get spectators to matches.
- The Media must help. Every year there are some extremely talented players that come through the ranks and go on to represent Jamaica and then the West Indies team. Wolmers’ Boys allrounder Daniel Beckford has been a regular in the Under 19 West Indies team, but how much does Jamaica know of him?
Do you know the difference it would make for a child to hear the voices of his/ her parents, family and friends from the sidelines? It would be immeasurable encouragement. The first step is home support.
Some years ago I attended a T20 mini-tournament, sponsored by a prominent paint company; four teams came to play two games . Astonishingly, I counted 12 spectators. Neither player, nor administrator made any effort to get supporters to the event. How do we expect to attract spectators to the gentleman’s game?