Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Cricket Ireland: Increased funding of €2.35M to start rebalancing investment across high performance and the grassroots game

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Photo Credit: Sportsfile

The Board of Cricket Ireland has approved the 2024 budget with increased investment across high performance, grassroots, facilities and infrastructure.

The €16.1 million expenditure is a €2.35M increase on 2023 and signals the start of a new era for Irish cricket through which greater emphasis is being placed on balancing investment across both high performance and the grassroots game, which was a key principle in recent Board discussions.

Here is what you need to know.

BUDGET 2024: the headline story
  • The €16.1 million budget is the highest on record for Irish cricket’s national governing body – with around €2.35 million in additional investment compared to the previous year.
  • The Board of Cricket Ireland has mandated that any uplift in funding from the International Cricket Council member distribution be invested across the sport – rebalancing investment priorities between high performance, grassroots and facilities and infrastructure.
  • Projections for 2024 indicate there will be a €480K surplus this year that will help enable loan repayments to the ICC and return Cricket Ireland to a positive reserve position over the coming years.
SNAPSHOT: Where the money is being invested

A summary of investments in 2024 are as follows:

Game Development

In the latest budget, Cricket Ireland has increased funding for game development, underscoring our commitment to nurturing the sport at all levels. This enhancement – with additional grant support from both Sport Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland – will see a focused investment on fostering innovation, enhancing inclusivity, and strengthening volunteer engagement. Focus on these strategic areas will benefit community cricket and participation programmes and ensure that Cricket Ireland and the Provincial Unions are equipped to support clubs, schools and communities to play more cricket.

The budget will see an approximate 83% funding increase in participation activities (up to €165K) covering such activities as education courses, safeguarding, Smash It and It’s Wicket! programmes..

This funding will also be complemented by over €400K in government-funded programmes in 2024.

Additionally, the Club Fund will be re-established in 2024 – in the first year it will focus on small-scale capital projects and other projects at club level (e.g. inclusion programmes, coaching projects). The intention is to grow this fund year-on-year. More details to be released later in 2024.

Provincial Unions

It is recognised that Provincial Unions have a positive track record of growing their own funding to support cricket in their provincial union. However, Cricket Ireland will continue to invest and support the grassroots in a range of ways.

Additional funding support has been invested in Munster Cricket to help establish the organisation at the same levels as the other Provincial Union – this funding will enable:

  • the recruitment of two full-time Development Officers; and
  • a full-time Operations Manager in Munster

Cricket Leinster, Northern Cricket Union and North West Cricket Union have received incremental distribution increases of 20%, this funding includes an additional Development Officer on the ground in each PU and also increased provision for Inter-Pro head coaches (this is to recognise PU’s investment into their Head coaches, so Cricket Ireland has increased funding towards these positions).

An allocation of €15K for Connacht Cricket Union to begin the process of formal affiliation with Cricket Ireland. We are working closely with the CCU to develop the game in the West and to realise our vision of cricket growing in every province. This investment will help accelerate the formal inclusion of CCU as a fifth Provincial Union and enable some key local projects to take place.

PU’s will additionally receive cost of living increases to staff – with the emphasis on the lowest paid staff members.

High Performance

Approximately €8.5M is being invested in men’s and women’s international cricket, international talent pathway, hosting of matches and away tours in 2024 (the full international fixture programme will be announced separately).

This increased investment will see a range of benefits, including:

  • the Women’s High Performance Programme will see an increase of 50% in funding, while the men’s programme will increase by 17%. This will be a combination of coaching, support staff and player remuneration;
  • a full-time Performance Services Manager will be confirmed to oversee the entire sport science programme around the men, women and pathway; and
  • a new strength and conditioning coach will be brought on later in the year to work primarily with the pathway men’s and women’s international teams.

Cricket Ireland and the Irish Cricketers Association are currently finalising a first-ever Memorandum of Understanding which will frame the relationship between the two bodies around a range of items including player remuneration. This is designed to replicate best practice from around the world in other FICA-aligned countries, and details will be issued following the end of that process.

It should also be noted that investment in home events will be €2.6M in 2024 – the highest-ever and a €175K increase on the previous year.

Facilities, Venues and Operations

Approximately €1.4M is being invested in facilities and operations – a 28% increase on 2023.

This increased investment will see a range of benefits, including:

  • increases in the ODI ground maintenance allocation;
  • increases in venue hire fees for hosting of international and domestic representative cricket that reflect inflation and associated operational costs;
  • an investment has been made (see story) in elite match officials to professionalise the operation and fund the development and training of elite umpires, scorers and match referees;
  • more Super Series games being played in the two northern Provinces, showcasing the women’s game further in Northern Ireland;
  • increased match fees and operational support for Super Series players; and
  • increased access to the Cricket Ireland High Performance Centre to six days-a-week.

In addition, Cricket Ireland will finalise multi-year agreements with the four ODI-rated grounds and complete a whole-of-sport Facilities Strategy that looks at the infrastructure and facility needs of the sport across Ireland.

Administration and Organisational Costs

There will be a 3% increase in administration costs in 2024.

This includes:

  • investment will be made in IT and other systems to create a more efficient and cost-effective operation, including an integrated finance system to reflect the growing complexity of operations; and
  • Cricket Ireland staff will receive a cost-of-living increase, with the emphasis on the lowest paid staff.

Furthermore, costs have been saved through the use of enhanced livestream as opposed to onsite broadcast operations for all home internationals in 2024.

THE VIEW: A rebalancing of budget priorities

Brian MacNeice, Chair of Cricket Ireland,said:

“What we have announced today reflects the Board’s commitment to growing cricket at all levels of the game. Having entered the new ICC funding cycle, the Board was resolute in ensuring any uplift in funding should benefit the whole sport. We have now approved a budget that aligns with this vision to grow the game from grassroots to the international arena.

“We are looking at an approximate €2.3M additional injection into Irish cricket, the vast majority is split fairly evenly between grassroots and participation, supporting our cricket operations and facilities, and rewarding our male and female players.

“And we’re doing more of these things at the same time as trying to sustain the demands of playing and hosting an intensive amount of cricket in an affordable manner.

“Very shortly we will be releasing our new Strategic Plan which will further underscore the re-balancing philosophy over this funding cycle. The new investment in 2024 is just the start of a period of growth, and the Board and staff are excited for what lies ahead.”

Warren Deutrom, CEO of Cricket Ireland, said:

This is a budget for Irish cricket and sets us on the right course to grow the game at all levels.

“It is now clear that we can anticipate around US$70M from the ICC over the next four years – however, the phasing of this funding is weighted towards the back end where around 40% of this funding could come in 2027, if it isn’t deferred by the ICC to the next cycle.

“While factoring this in, the Board asked management to take a step back and consider where were the areas of most impact across the sport. While this budget will see an injection of more than €2.3M into Irish cricket, we recognise that there are vast needs and improvements required and 2024 is just the start of a journey.

“We not only need to address those areas of urgent need, but look towards the longer term future of the sport and begin to put in place the foundations of a more sustainable and growth-orientated sport. The last 10 years have seen dramatic changes to our sport and our organisation, but the next 10 years may be far more instrumental to our longer-term succeses.”

Further details about the budget investments and the new Strategic Plan will be released shortly, starting with the announcement of the international fixture schedule.

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