This letter was first published in the Sunday Telegraph:
Scyld Berry’s article (ECB can afford Ashes return to Terrestrial TV ) was damning in its indictment of County cricket.
When such criticism is levied at a sport it is important to reflect on its tone and nature. If it is justified then it should be accepted but in this instance a firm rebuttal is required.
He suggests that Counties ‘have to reform by connecting far more to their local communities.’ Such a commentary displays a lack of knowledge of the change which has been driven by Counties in recent years. We would be delighted to welcome Mr Berry to Trent Bridge for a day to look at our programmes and meet some of the youngsters and adults who have benefited from some of our groundbreaking work.
A hugely important question arises from Mr Berry’s hypothesis: ‘What is a County Cricket Club for?’
Four years ago we at Nottinghamshire went through our own Strategic Review and asked ourselves that very question. Whilst success on the field would be very important we decided to give equal weighting to grassroots cricket and community work.
Dealing firstly with the facts, we spend in excess of £500,000 each year on our grassroots community work and other first class counties are similarly committed. We do not receive a return from this investment although we hope youngsters will come through our ranks to play for England.
Over 10,000 youngsters each year are involved in our Development programmes and 12,000 people participate through the County’s 26 Focus Clubs. Those Clubs receive significant support and advice from the Nottinghamshire Cricket Board. That support, too, would disappear if the Ashes returned to Terrestrial TV and a commercial rate is not paid to secure the broadcast rights.
Yet the contribution we make to the community spreads far beyond this. We have founded our own Charitable Trust and part of our work includes a Positive Futures programme in Cotgrave in partnership with Rushcliffe Borough Council and the Football Foundation. If Mr Berry is looking for evidence of reformation, well, here it is. Working with a cohort of young people, we have just received some exciting evidence of a significant correlation between our project and a reduction in juvenile crime. We have also received great feedback from the Probation Service for our re-training programme.
And when we ran ICC World Twenty20 last June we wrapped a whole series of community, volunteering and participation events to ensure that the reach of such a great global event extended way beyond the environs of Trent Bridge and left a true community legacy.
When Mr Berry visits we would also like him to meet some of our staff who have mentored youngsters in the City on the ‘Say Yes’ social awareness programme for which we gained a prestigious award from the BBC. And he could usefully talk to some of those who gained modern apprenticeships.
That the Club has won two external awards for outstanding joint working with Public Sector partners in 2009 may not be as noteworthy as the chance to have an uninformed go at cricket and its administrators.
County Cricket is changing. We are not alone in looking radically at the way we interface with local communities and increasing participation levels and coaching standards. Mr Berry is right in one assertion. Yes, we do need to retain the income at current levels from the sale of TV rights. Without it our County Cricket Club would not be ‘for’ the communities and young people it currently serves.
Chief Executive, Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club