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Thunder to take centre stage as part of Empower Play at Emirates Old Trafford

Thunder to take centre stage as part of Empower Play at Emirates Old Trafford
Thunder to take centre stage as part of Empower Play at Emirates Old Trafford

Lancashire chief executive Daniel Gidney says the club will continue to do everything they can to drive forwards the development of women’s and girls' cricket in the North West.

This Thursday sees Thunder headline a T20 double header day at Emirates Old Trafford for the second year running, with £1 from all tickets sold donated to female participation initiatives in conjunction with the Lancashire Foundation.

The day has been entitled Empower Play, with Lancashire’s men facing Leicestershire in a Vitality Blast clash at 12.30pm before Thunder tackle the Blaze in the Charlotte Edwards Cup at 4.30pm.

It is the latest in a long line of initiatives the Red Rose club have pursued in order to progress the female game, including a pre-season tour to Dubai for the past two years with help from the region’s standalone commercial partners Hilton and Sportsbreaks. This year, the Thunder squad travelled to Mumbai, where they were based at Reliance Park, home of Mumbai Indians.

“With the women headlining a T20 double header, it’s the second year that we’ve done it,” said Gidney. “And it’s about keeping up the momentum.

“It’s also a lot about actions speaking louder than words, and for us you can’t half run a women’s and girls programme. You’re either doing it or you’re not. And we’re absolutely doing it.

“For us, we’re pleased to over-index and over-invest above what we get from the ECB to fund our regional programme. We’re continuing to push the boundaries. To do this properly, I think you’ve got to invest all the way from grassroots, through the pathway and all the way up.”

The club are working with the Lancashire Cricket Foundation to work out exactly what initiatives Thursday’s money will go to, but it is safe to assume it will be on something grassroots linked. Gidney believes an increase in finances and funding at that level would be “transformative” for the female game in this country.

He continued: “We have 800-900 girls playing across the North West over I think about 110 clubs with girls' sections.

“Jen Barden (cricket development manager for the Lancashire Cricket Foundation) has done a hell of a job over the last 10 years. She’s driven that growth massively.

“But for a county the size of ours, it’s nowhere near enough girls playing the game. And we need more money to fund it, to get more girls playing Dynamos and All Stars. We’re running Empower Play as a day, which will be a brilliant day. We have lots going on. We did Women in Sport last year.

“I hope we can get to a stage where we don’t have to do days like this because it’s just normal and natural. But we’re not there yet.

“We’re on a journey, and we’re really proud of where we’ve come from. But we’ve still got loads to do.”

Gidney is encouraged that the talent pool at Thunder is widening.

For example, young guns Liv Thomas and Mahika Gaur have already made their senior regional debuts this summer, while senior contracted players such as Phoebe Graham and Laura Jackson have had to battle hard for their places.

“The harder it is to get into the team, that’s only a good thing because the structure is getting stronger and more competitive,” he said.

“The great thing is that some of those girls who are having to fight for their places went and absolutely smashed it with the Lancashire women’s side who won the T20 Cup last weekend. They’ve taken it the right way, and we’re really proud of them.”

Gidney says he would like to see more T20 double headers with the men and the women, and he also revealed the club have put their hat into the ring to host future women’s internationals at Emirates Old Trafford, something they have not done since 2012.

“We’re definitely up for it,” he added. “We haven’t hosted a women’s international fixture for a long time at Emirates Old Trafford, and we’d love to do so again.

“I think we have to be pragmatic and understanding that women’s cricket has been dominated in the south. The south has had the history.

“But there’s a new major match package coming out, and we’re currently towards the end of consultation.

“The current international programme runs until 2024, and we’re hoping that from 2025-2031 we will get some women’s international fixtures. We’re looking forward to that.

“Part of that over the next three years is building our domestic ticket sales base so that we can authentically support any of those events.

“It’s not just about hosting it. We could do that with our eyes closed. For us, we want to build on the success of the Manchester Originals and Thunder and drive a strong core of domestic women’s ticket buyers.”