Cricket Clubs need a good post-Covid-19 strategy
In normal times, walking past your local cricket ground on almost any Saturday or Sunday you would have come across a quintessentially British sight – a game of village cricket. For those, including myself, who wait all winter to don their whites, the brilliant weather leads to some fantastic afternoons in the sun, coupled with a few drinks with team-mates afterwards. This is what us cricketers tend to live for.
2020 was meant to be the summer that benefited from the mass engagement and interest developed through Stokes’ Ashes or England’s first World Cup ODI win. It was meant to be the time when many children and young people picked up a bat for the first time and when clubs finally turned the tide of falling participation rates – which almost halved between 2008 and 2016 according to figures by Sport England. However, the reality of the situation is very different.
The current COVID-19 situation has led to pitches being unused, pavilions left empty and – frighteningly for the future of the game – many clubs on the brink of collapse. The impact of this is very much being felt at grassroots level. As Jonathan Slater, Chairman of Bayford Cricket Club, told me, ‘recent years have seen a decline in playing numbers and a difficulty in attracting young players, coupled with pressure of fundraising and sponsorship. We have started to see several clubs go to the wall and the current situation could mark the beginning of the end for some village clubs who run on shoe-string budgets.’
Cricket is unique in that, whilst being volunteer led and run, it has high costs to maintain grounds and many have to invest in specialist equipment to ensure facilities are fit for purpose. This and other fixed costs are often mitigated by bar profits, membership fees and match fees.
The ECB has looked to help mitigate the Covid-19 impact through a variety of emergency loan schemes which, along with support from Sport England and Central Government, may save some clubs from collapse. However, it has been relatively quiet on providing fundraising support and advice for clubs. In-fact the latest Q and A, launched on 5th June, gave no advice on fundraising by clubs stating that ‘we will issue guidance on this as soon as it’s appropriate to do so.’ This is the very advice that clubs are crying out for in the current climate!
Whilst cricket takes up a big part of my summer, my day job involves supporting charities and voluntary organisations to raise money. I am fortunate enough to be in a position to share my expertise with my own club and, in light of the above, wanted to share some wisdom with others.
Whilst I would hope that clubs would already have investigated the above statutory support which is available – if you haven’t I urge you to look into these immediately – it is the additional fundraising opportunities where clubs need more specialised and specific advice.
Many clubs (those registered as Community Amateur Sports Clubs) may not be aware that they are eligible to reclaim Gift-Aid from HMRC on any donation made by members. This increases any donations made by members by 25%, at no cost to the club, and will make a significant difference during this time. Before you consider asking members to donate their membership fee, despite the lack of cricket at the moment, I urge you to look into Gift-Aid. It could make a vital difference.
For those of you that are struggling with lack of income from match-fees or from bar and refreshment sales, now is certainly the time to think differently. Clubs must not be scared to ask members for financial support, whilst being mindful of the situation that individuals may find themselves in at this time. Now is not the time to be timid in asking for money and – if done in the right way – it could be the difference between whether you survive or flouder. This is advice we are giving clients from across the charity sector.
Have you considered asking players to donate the amount they would have spent on match-fees to your club? Is it worth asking members to purchase ‘bar-credit’ to be spent when pavilions re-open and which will help with cashflow? Have you thought about ‘100 Clubs’ or other prize draws to generate income, and which can easily be run remotely? What other fundraising mechanisms could you think about which can help to bring in income?
At the heart of all clubs is an engaged and passionate membership base. Ensuring your members recognise the issues you are facing is key to making additional ‘asks’ for money during this time. It is in everyone’s best interest to work together to ensure, once we get back to some sense of normality, that cricket clubs survive and that we can still come together to play the game we love. Let’s make sure that 2020 is not seen as the year that grassroots cricket is this country died. Hopefully, we are able to salvage the rest of the summer to ensure that the efforts of so many volunteers to keep clubs running are not wasted.
Ben Wilson is Director of Development and Enterprise at Cause4 and has played cricket for over 30 years at school, junior county level and club level.
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