How 2019 changed the perception of cricket in the UK
The 2019 summer of cricket will go down as arguably the greatest the UK has ever seen. A sensational World Cup – staged across 11 venues in England and Wales – resulted in a final at Lord’s between the hosts and New Zealand that will surely never be matched for drama and sheer sporting theatre.
And, just a couple of weeks later, Australia were in town for a fiercely contested Ashes series that saw one of the great Test innings from Ben Stokes at Headingley. Although a 2-2 draw meant the tourists returned home having retained the little urn, few could argue that the three and a half months of high-octane, high-quality cricket had done wonders for altering the perception of the sport on these shores.
Busy schedules not affecting attendances
Much has been made of the hectic and sometimes haphazard nature of the modern fixture list, especially here in the UK where there are three (soon to become four) domestic competitions to squeeze in around England’s busy international calendar.
However, the sheer volume of cricket does not seem to have dampened any enthusiasm for fans who love going to watch live action. In 2019, almost 950,000 people attended the 133 T20 Blast matches, reflecting a healthy appetite for the county game, while the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced 3.15 million people attended its domestic and international fixtures in 2019 – an 18% rise on the previous record set in 2017.
Not only are more people going to watch cricket in the UK, but the early signs are that greater numbers have been taking part in the game as well, which is excellent news for manufacturers such as Slazenger, Gray-Nicolls and Kookaburra as well as retailers like Talent Cricket.
According to the ECB, 62% of clubs reported an increase in the number of junior players, while 40% of fans intend to follow the sport more closely, with the World Cup triumph and thrilling Ashes series playing a pivotal role in those improvements.
On a global scale, the numbers are quite staggering – the International Cricket Council reported that a cumulative average audience of 1.6 billion people watched the tournament, a massive 38% rise from the 2015 edition in Australia and New Zealand.
And, for the first time since 2005, international cricket was aired on terrestrial television in this country as the epic World Cup final was broadcast on Channel 4 in a bid to capitalise on the tidal wave of interest that had swept the nation. It was a plan that worked, with 4.5 million tuning in to watch via those means – further evidence of the perception of cricket changing for the better in the UK.