Three years ago I wrote a book – a book that was aimed at women, introducing them to cricket. My motivation? To get more girls into the sport. Not necessarily playing it, but watching, enjoying and actually understanding it.
Last night I attended the Glamorgan v Surrey T20 match at the Swalec Stadium, Cardiff. For the first time, in the nine years I have been a cricket fan, my cricket buddy Abby and I were not alone. At one point I actually had to queue for the ladies, in a place that is unique in the fact that the women’s toilets are historically more underused than the men’s. It was a great feeling seeing so many women my age watching cricket.
I remember when it was often just Abby and I sitting in the ground under the age of 50, CWAGS (crickets WAGS) aside, chatting to the elderly men who took us in as one of their own. It’s can be scary being the minority, especially in an environment such as the cricket, watching a sport that is often said to be extremely male dominated.
Watch the IPL and notice the ground filled with both sexes. In fact some teams are even owned by women in India. I appreciate we’re still so far from that but I definitely saw from last night’s experience that we’re certainly on our way.
I was lucky enough to be a guest on the BBC Radio show ‘Good Evening Wales’ with Gareth Lewis before the match to talk about my cricket eBook, my blog and how we are going to get more women to the cricket. I talked about grounds thinking more about what women enjoy on a night out, such as having themed nights, encouraging them to dress up before going out etc. but the more I think about it, the more I realised I should have mentioned the part that the men have to play. Not the on-field cricketers, but the boyfriends, the husbands, the fathers and the brothers. I didn’t start watching cricket because I woke up one day and decided I wanted to learn about the world’s most intricate sport. It was my father, calling me into his conservatory to watch the end of the 2005 Ashes Edgbaston test. From then on I was hooked. All it takes is one game and a bit of understanding, and that’s what motivated me to do for other girls of my generation what my father did for me.
Men – you have to step up. If you want your lady to appreciate the fact that you like to stand around in a field for hours on end on a Saturday afternoon whilst a red leather ball comes flying at your face every now and again, make some effort. Teach her a different rule every week, ease her in by taking her to a T20 once in a while, or encourage her to start her Friday night out with the girls at a short but exciting cricket match drinking Pimms. I had my cricket epiphany (crickiphany), so can she!
County Cricket Grounds – Be a little flexible with your prices now and again. Unless you’re a member, cricket tickets can be expensive and extremely off-putting for those on the fence about the game. I’m not saying women’s tickets should be cheaper, that’s sexist. I’m merely suggesting you give some free tickets to your members to share out with their friends – a ‘try before you buy’ approach. I know this has been done by grounds in the past but I don’t see it enough. A great example of clever marketing would be what Glamorgan CCC have done this year – a £50 one-off payment to attend all of the home T20 matches. The short form of the game is a great place for new fans to begin. It’s only 3 hours long, fast-paced, full of atmosphere and 99.9% of the time there is a result.
Eventually, you won’t need gimmicks to attend. The cricket itself will stand alone and attract both genders equally, I really believe it will happen some day. Compared to 3 years ago, I am seeing more and more women at the cricket and it’s so refreshing. I’m not sure whether it’s the weather, the current good form of my team or the lure that some of the more handsome cricketers have over the young girls but it’s great to see women breaking into a male-dominated sport.
I haven’t given up on my dream of working in the sport media world. I believe my subject knowledge and often crazy, girly view on cricket would make for a fascinating radio show. I have done some cricket commentary before on various radio and internet stations – it’s usually quite funny listening to me attempting to soften my Swansea accent so people can understand me – and I have absolutely loved it. Male commentators aren’t always easy-listening for women who are trying to learn the sport – I’ve been told this by many a woman. I honestly believe I’d be able to fix that problem and will work hard to be given that chance. Us women are complex characters but once you understand what makes us tick, we’re not that hard to please. When I think about my favourite TV shows or movies, it’s not necessarily the story that attracts me, it’s the characters and it’s the same with sport. Once you know the personality of the cricketer, you can’t help rooting for them. I’d love to see them doing more personal interviews. I’m not talking explicit love-life details, just what makes them tick. It makes them more human and relatable. I, like many women, am pretty nosy. There’s a reason there are so many gossip magazines out there – we like to know everybody’s business!
Cricketers – you need to be in the limelight more. You’d become more of an interest so people are not just supporting the sport, they’re supporting the player. Yes, it’s putting yourself out there a little bit more, but think of it as your contribution to marketing a brilliant game. Your fans would appreciate it and you never know, you may just find your ground a little fuller next year. (See Freddie Flintoff).
I might be a bit of a ‘cricket geek’ but in my mind I’m the best of both worlds. I also love shopping, doing my nails and going for cocktails with the girls. My aim is to show other girls like me how fun getting into cricket can actually be, and I won’t stop until every country appreciates it like the sub-continent. They get it right, but so can we.
I’ll get there one day.