Photo Credit: ECB
At the end of 2023, ECB Chair Richard Thompson writes a letter of thank you to everyone in the game of cricket.
To the volunteers, the players, the officials, the staff, the fans. To everyone who works hard to make cricket special
As we approach the end of an extraordinary year for our game, I wanted to say a huge thank you for everything you have contributed and take the chance to wish a happy Christmas to all those celebrating.
The hard work and dedication so many of you show week in, week out, is what underpins cricket in this country and is never taken for granted.
This is the end of my first full year as ECB Chair, and I’ve been blown away by the commitment I’ve seen wherever I’ve visited – up, down and across England and Wales and from Bangladesh to Barbados. What a year it’s been, with last night’s final IT20 between England Men and West Indies Men bringing down the curtain on a hectic 12 months for the game at all levels.
From witnessing the thrills and spills of the double Ashes series which grabbed the nation’s imagination to seeing the tangible excitement as we opened a new state-of-the-art Community Cricket dome at Bradford Park Avenue, time and time again I’ve been heartened by how cricket can do so much good when we get it right.
Of course, as well as the highs we’ve experienced this year there have also been some lows. We should look back on the successes with pride, but not shy away from the challenges we also face. At the end of 2023, I am confident that as a game we have made real progress, and taken important steps towards becoming a more inclusive sport.
There’s no better demonstration of cricket’s power and reach than how the Men’s and Women’s Ashes grabbed the nation’s attention. We were all gripped by two incredible series which went down to the wire. You knew there was something unusual happening when England Bucket hats were selling for £150 on eBay! Standout performances like Tammy Beaumont’s double hundred at Trent Bridge and Stuart Broad’s finale at the Kia Oval will live long in the memory. To sell more than 650,000 Ashes tickets was remarkable. And the 115,000 sold for the women’s series – four and a half times the number we saw in 2019 – speaks volumes about the surging interest in women’s cricket and underpins why we must continue investing in its growth.
Across domestic and international cricket, we’ve seen the highest ticket sales on record – 3.1million – with another record year for The Hundred, which continues to open up cricket to new fans alongside existing supporters.
It’s not just our England teams and county or regional cricket, we’ve also delivered the second year of the Disability Premier League, our Visually Impaired teams took part in the World Blind Games – the first time we have fielded an England Women’s VI team – while our Learning Disability team is now unbeaten in 13 years after a tri-series win in South Africa. And there’s so much more happened at a recreational level too.
In 2023 we’ve seen 188,500 fixtures played recreationally, more than any previous season except for 2022. We saw a 40% increase in number of fixtures played by junior teams, and with better weather conditions we believe we would have had our best year ever.
We took cricket to more new places than before, with over 50,000 school pupils picking up a bat and ball as part of our youth strategy, working with charity partners and the cricket network to provide free cricket to children on free school meals or with a disability or special educational needs. In total, more than 1million children now get chance to play cricket through programmes delivered by the ECB and our partners. However, I know we still have a long way to go.
We’ve also reached 30,000 ethnically diverse players through our urban hubs, continued to invest in improved urban facilities and opened that amazing new dome in Bradford to enable community cricket to be played all year round. There’s so much more I could add and want us to do but I can’t fit in here.
I said earlier that this had been a year of challenge too, and none more so than with the findings of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket demonstrating how far we still have to go to rid our sport of racism and other forms of discrimination. At the moment there are people who still don’t feel welcome in our sport. That has to change. However, we have started to make tangible steps forward through the actions we have set out in response to the report – including injecting an extra £2million into key stakeholders to boost their work breaking down barriers, equalising our Men’s and Women’s match fees, and continuing to invest in growing the women’s and girls’ game at every level. I know many of you will be involved in other work which is under way right across cricket. We must continue to keep our foot to the pedal next year and prove that we are listening, learning and are determined in our mission to become the most inclusive sport.
Achieving this will only be possible if everyone involved in cricket unites behind it. If we’re to make real change, we also need the time and space for it to take effect. Some of the actions we are undertaking will start to make a difference immediately, but other activity will take time, and it will be some considerable time before we see its impact. We recognise that as a sport we have got things wrong in the past, and while there are no quick fixes we are trying our hardest to put it right and are committed to do the right thing.
The thing that gives me most confidence that we will achieve our goal, is because we have so many brilliant people committed to the game. I’ve been heartened and inspired by so many people I’ve met through this year who work tirelessly and selflessly to make our game better. Volunteers who give up hundreds of hours each year to help others or keep their club running and give back to their community. Coaches whose life mission is to enable others to experience the benefits and skills that cricket can teach them. And people working right across the cricket network to break down barriers and reach out to others.
So as we look ahead to what the new year has in store, can I say a heartfelt thank you for all you have given over the past 12 months. Now let’s make 2024 an even bigger and better year for the sport we love dearly.
It finally leaves me to wish you all a wonderful Festive period with your families and a healthy happy and prosperous New Year.
Richard Thompson, ECB Chair