Women’s county cricket ready to enjoy a rare day in the spotlight

first_imgIf you are hoping to spend the bank holiday watching men’s county cricket, then good luck. There are four Royal London One-Day Cup matches at Northampton, Leicester, Derby and Leeds – fine for those on the Midland Mainline and in Yorkshire, less so for everyone else – which feels like a squandered opportunity in an Ashes and World Cup summer. Others, though, glimpse an opening. Monday brings the launch of the inaugural Women’s County Cricket Day, which takes inspiration from football’s Non‑League Day by trying to encourage more cricket fans to support their local women’s team.Unlike men’s cricket, there is no distinction between first-class and minor counties, and 32 of the 39 counties will be competing in 16 matches. The attempt to shine an overdue spotlight on the women’s county game comes at an intriguing but uncertain time. In recent weeks, several players have revealed they have had to pay for their own kit and travel, occasionally play on lousy pitches and often barely getting a presence on their county website.Somerset’s Cassie Combes says: “What often shocks people is we are putting out more financially than we are getting back. We don’t get paid and the mileage we are given for games has gone down from 30p to 15p. That doesn’t even cover my petrol, let alone the wear and tear on my car.“We love representing our county, but people in the game need to understand that what was supportive to women’s cricket 10 years ago isn’t good enough now. Things are changing for the better in women’s sport at such a rapid state. But cricket risks being left behind.”Combes is delighted that more counties are promoting the game to young girls. “However, it seems so hypocritical when they do that but then their women’s teams don’t even have a media day.” … we have a small favour to ask. 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This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Share on WhatsApp Share on Messenger The Observer Share on LinkedIn The agent Allen Blackford, who represents four England women, says he shares many of those concerns. A passionate advocate of the women’s game, he fears the sport has not capitalised on England winning the World Cup in 2017. “I hear lots of talk but not much action,” he says. “And unfortunately the girls don’t feel they can speak out, because they are very grateful about the position they are in compared to where they were a few years ago. Meanwhile, the Hundred is due to start next year and apparently there is lots of money coming into the women’s game as a result, but I haven’t heard one snifter of information about the finer details.”Yet those whose glass is half full believe that the England and Wales Cricket Board’s plan to invest £20m into the women’s game in 2020 and 2021 shows that it has a rosy future. The Kia Super League will be scrapped and eight semi-professional teams – which are expected to be based on regions rather than counties – introduced from next year.The ECB stresses it wants to raise the number of professional female players in England – which is currently just over 20, far below the 90 or so in Australia – but also make the women’s game better at all levels. “There is broad agreement with our headline plans to develop compelling cricket activities for girls in secondary schools, strengthen the club offer for players of all abilities, and invest in the county talent pathway for girls,” it said. “We will also build a new semi-professional competition structure in both 50-over and T20 formats – each team being underpinned by a year-round academy – and maximise investment through areas of alignment between the new eight-team semi-professional competition structure and the Hundred.”The ECB also confirmed that it had spent the past eight weeks having meetings with the 39 counties to discuss how best to invest £20m in 2020 and 2021 and looked forward to presenting its plans more fully soon.The former England player Lydia Greenway says she is optimistic about the future of the women’s game, pointing out the growing number of matches covered on the BBC and Sky. “From that point of view it has been brilliant to see brilliant female role models,” she says. “When I rewind back to when I started playing I had to go on the internet for some dodgy stream.”However, she does have sympathy with county female players grinding away without much love or attention. “They aren’t expected to be paid thousands. It is more about feeling valued.”That is something that supporters of the inaugural women’s day hope is evident in matches all the way from Cumbria to Cornwall. Topics features Support The Guardian Since you’re here…center_img Read more Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via Email Cricket Sign up to the Spin – our weekly cricket round-up Share on Pinterest Women’s cricket Reuse this contentlast_img read more