All Stars Cricket II: The Quickening

Last May, I wrote a post on a tiny blog I had started to rail against problems in English cricket. This post was about the ECB’s latest initiative, All Stars Cricket, and how I believed it to be a colossal failure. Virtually no one read it though, because I’m a nobody with barely any Twitter followers and I never played professional cricket (which appears to be a prerequisite for cricket journalism nowadays). One of the handful of people who did read it was thelegglance, and he liked it enough to repost it here on BOC. That one post got me in the door here, and I’ve since been lucky enough since to be invited to the inside of Being Outside Cricket.

This week marks the opening of the sign up period for kids to join this year’s edition of All Stars Cricket. Assuming your local club has filled in the necessary forms online, you will be able to register your kids for it very soon. For £40 your 5-8 year old kid can have their own personalised cricket kit delivered right to your door, plus 8 sessions at your local cricket club. This might come as a surprise to you, because there hasn’t been much publicity about it so far. If I wasn’t researching this article, I’m honestly not sure that I would have known.

So it would appear that the ECB have not learnt their lesson from last year, when they failed to market the scheme effectively despite some grand promises made during the launch event last March. So what has changed from last year? The answer, unsurprisingly, is not much.

If your kid still has last year’s kits and you were wondering if they could just use that and save yourself £35, the answer is no. There is a new shirt design, and perhaps more crucially a set of stumps included in the kit bag. There are a few minor alterations to the kits the club can get too, the standout part of which for me was that they are now offering “female specific clothing” for ‘Activators’, the ECB’s buzzword for coaches and volunteers.

As I said at the start of this post, I’ve been lucky enough to be here for almost a year now. In that time, I don’t think I’ve ever sworn on the site. I have only ever gone as far as saying ‘shit’ a few times on my Twitter (and admittedly a few gifs of people extending their middle finger). I am not a person who likes to swear. But the ECB apparently launched this scheme with the assumption that women wouldn’t be a part of their  “major grassroots initiative” to increase participation in cricket. In 2017? Seriously? Fuck these guys.

The Australian Blueprint

As you may know, the ECB’s All Stars Cricket scheme is more or less a direct copy of Cricket Australia’s in2CRICKET program. The ECB even hired Matt Dwyer, the man who had run the scheme for four years in Australia. It costs pretty much the same, it gives the kids pretty much the same equipment, and the activities are probably virtually the same too. It even has roughly the same number of kids as All Stars Cricket, with 35,731 kids taking part in Australia compared to around 37,000 in England and Wales.

Except, of course, that Australia has a much smaller population than England and Wales. Less than half, in fact. In2CRICKET’s participation figures are actually the equivalent of just over 83,000 if you take that into account, far beyond the figures for All Stars Cricket.

So what lessons can the ECB learn from Cricket Australia’s example? There are so many things that I almost don’t know where to start. Obviously the elephant in the room is that the sport is freely available in Australia, with live cricket appearing on free to air television. Kids see the game, like it, and want to play it. They not only like the game, they like the players. Most English players could walk down any High Street in the country with a fair chance of not being recognised. Obviously nothing is going to change about this situation for the next few years, but it needed to be said.

One thing I do wish the ECB might learn is consistency. In2CRICKET launched in 1996 as Have-A-Go Cricket and is now 21 years old. I’d honestly be amazed if All Stars Cricket managed to last 5 years. The ECB seem to have a predilection for launching new initiatives and scrapping old ones with barely a thought. No sooner has a club got themselves familiar with the status quo than the ECB will throw in a new scheme, often with more training and paperwork for the volunteers running the club. I would wager that constantly having to jump through hoops of the ECB’s devising is a major reason for people involved in clubs behind the scenes leaving the sport.

There is also a feeling with Cricket Australia’s youth development that everything is joined together and part of a larger plan. Whilst getting cricket into schools in England and Wales is largely done by the independent (and currently underfunded) Chance To Shine charity, in Australia it is done by Cricket Australia’s in2CRICKET Skills program. Whilst Chance To Shine claims to reach around 250,000 children per year in the UK, the Australian scheme reaches 500,000 every year. If we again consider the differences in population between the two countries, that is the equivalent of 1.16m children in England and Wales every year.

And what happens when the kids turn nine? Cricket Australia has a similar program for them too: the somewhat confusingly named Milo T20 Blast. Although it shares its name with our domestic T20 competition, it is in fact a more grown up version of All Stars Cricket aimed at 9-12 year olds.

All of which inexorably leads me to the conclusion that the ECB have failed to understand why youth participation in cricket is significantly higher in Australia than in England, and why Cricket Australia’s schemes are successful whilst theirs aren’t. Simply copying a single part of what is clearly an effective development framework is no more likely to work than teaching British kids how to speak Portuguese in the hope that it will make them play football like Ronaldo.

The ECB would contend that they do have a master plan for improving English cricket: Cricket Unleashed. All I can say is that if you can pick out a single substantive thing the ECB are going to do to increase participation on their website then you clearly understand business jargon a lot better than I, because the whole thing reads like vague nonsense to me.

Which leads us back to this year’s All Stars Cricket. By all accounts it is fun, and kids seem to love the personalised kit, so if your 5-8 year old kid is interested in cricket and you can spare £40 then there are probably worse ways to spend the money. But let’s not kid ourselves, All Stars Cricket is still not going to do what the ECB want it to do.

As always, comments welcome below.

38 thoughts on “All Stars Cricket II: The Quickening

  1. Maxie Allen (@MaxieAllen) February 19, 2018 / 6:01 pm

    The ECB’s Sky money has always been justified by the mantra that the cash is “vital” for the nurturing of the grass-roots. So if they have all that money swilling around, why do they have to charge for these kits, rather than send them out for free? Or at least, make them free for low-income families?

    How much funding does the ECB give to Chance 2 Shine? When I blogged on TFT, I looked into this subject a little – at the time their grant was only £1.5 million a year, which is peanuts compared to what they get from Sky. The sum may be slightly higher now but I doubt it’s a bigger proportion of their income.

    Regardless, all these schemes are a lame sop for the absence of cricket on free television. No families have watched England play for free for thirteen years. An entire generation have grown up with no access to the international game unless their parents have the money, and inclination, to pay for Sky Sports. This is killing the game. No two ways about it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • dannycricket February 19, 2018 / 6:43 pm

      Ah yes. Using the money from the Sky Sports deal to improve the grassroots. I remember when the ECB said that. Since 2005, there have been significant falls in the numbers of adult cricketers, children and clubs, and the ECB don’t seem to do anything about it.

      All Stars Cricket is supposed to boost the clubs in both the short term (more money from juniors who stay at the club after the 8 weeks) and the long term (more kids at the club mean more senior players in 10 years). It’s not necessarily a bad plan. About 10 years too late, and standing on its own right now with no other support, but I’m not saying that more young kids at cricket clubs is a bad thing.

      The problem, as it usually is, is the ECB. They have failed to sell the scheme, even on a basic level. At the launch event in 2017, they made all these grand promises about how they were going to promote All Stars Cricket. There were going to be national adverts on the radio, there was going to be a partnership with MumsNet to get the word out to non-cricketing mothers, and there were going to be events nationwide for 10,000 kids to meet their heroes.

      As it transpired, around 1,500 kids turned up to the #BigMoments events, the MumsNet thing disappeared without a trace, and if there was a national advertising campaign I definitely didn’t see or hear any of it. It was basically all a lie. And that meant that instead of the boost for local clubs that it could have been, it was the same as usual. Which means the people who work at the clubs, mostly volunteers, were doing their best to keep the grassroots of English cricket alive whilst the well-educated and well-funded people at the ECB sat on their backsides and did nothing. And probably laughed in an evil manner, as cartoonish villains tend to do.

      This year, the ECB haven’t even made a pretense at promoting it. Today was supposed to be the beginning of sign ups for kids. Has there been a press conference, a countdown on the England team’s Twitter page, anything at all to build excitement for this year’s edition? No. In fact, they’ve just delayed the start until Thursday. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole thing got canned after next year.


    • thelegglance February 20, 2018 / 11:36 am

      I’ll leave here my periodic reminder that at the time the ECB first awarded the contract to Sky, they stated that there would be discounts for cricket clubs to obtain Sky television, and that the clubs could become focal points for cricket in their communities where people without satellite could go and watch the game both live and on television.

      The “discount” was 5% off the commercial rate – so it would cost clubs £1,000 a month. It was a lie.


      • Maxie Allen (@MaxieAllen) February 21, 2018 / 11:32 am

        Why couldn’t cricket clubs get Sky Sports for free? As a goodwill gesture, and in terms of the overall turnover, the cost to BSB would be less than negligible.


        • thelegglance February 21, 2018 / 11:36 am

          If I were to take the Sky perspective, I’d say it would impact any pub contract in the same town or village, as a cricket club could take away their business.

          You can judge for yourself how big an impact that would be. But Sky would also say why on earth should they? It was for the ECB to negotiate something like that, and they didn’t care.


        • dannycricket February 21, 2018 / 5:10 pm

          There has to be an argument, now that the Sky Sports Cricket channel exists, that a cheap service for ECB-affiliated clubs offering just that channel plus Sky Sports Mix and the Red Button would be possible.


  2. LordCanisLupus February 19, 2018 / 7:48 pm

    I was greatly amused by a Tweeter taking on Selfey over Andy Flower – by the way, West Indies A have a 200+ lead over England Lions, and Jack Leach has taken five wickets again (meaning the future, Mason Crane, has one at most) – and getting the usual stuff from our hero!

    This was pure gold!

    Great stuff from Danny above. The amount of hopes being pinned on a T20 tournament, meticulously constructed, diligently researched, are extraordinary.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nonoxcol February 20, 2018 / 9:30 am

      …and the worst ever result against Pakistan, and the worst result against SA since readmission, and an adhesive bail away from the first defeat in NZ in 29 years, and a post-2010/11 record almost exactly the same as Fletcher post-2005 combined with Moores 2007-08 (even with one of those Ashes and India).

      He doesn’t do inconvenient facts. He never once bothered to examine the case against anyone he liked – even bloody Downton – while never hesitating to air it against those of whom he disapproved (two particular players of 2010s vintage standing out of course).

      He was a truly abysmal analyst of such a divisive period in English cricket history, and there in a few tweets is the number one reason why.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Mark February 20, 2018 / 1:00 pm

      Selvey has always given little to no credit to the players for the numerous wins during the Flower period. (Except for Cook)

      In his world….. Flower scored all the runs, took all the wickets, and made all the catches. All from his arm chair laptop seat in the pavilion. When the opposition improved….. as in 2014….. Flower was powerless to do anything. Diet sheets were all he had. And some crack
      pot theory about tall fast bowlers who were not fit for purpose.

      Selvey lives in a fantasy world of media type idiocy.


  3. Baz February 19, 2018 / 10:59 pm

    All the work is being done by the Clubs and the county boards are doing the admin on Clubspark(insurance etc) to avoid getting in the ECBs bad books.

    Our All Stars was very successful but who doesn’t love a bargain in the South East £40 is half a nights babysitting. The parents and kids will be back but the parents will still prefer a warm bar than playing cricket with the kids.

    I can’t see the ECB even maintaining this level of interest next year and the grassroot will be left in pretty much the same situation pre-All Stars

    As for the women’s game how exactly have the ECB capitalised on the World Cup win? The WBBL and Aussie model for female participation is light years ahead of ours. But don’t worry the new T20 model in 2019 will change everything…


    • dannycricket February 20, 2018 / 6:56 am

      Offhand, I think the new BBC TV deal includes more women’s T20 games than men’s. If they actually appear on BBC 1 or 2 instead of on the Red Button or just a stream on the website, then that’s a big boost for women’s cricket here.


      • Sri.Grins February 20, 2018 / 7:21 am

        without t-20 and odis, women’s cricket would not have progressed. silver lining? 🙂


  4. AB February 20, 2018 / 11:27 am

    No amount of schemes – daft or otherwise – are ever going to make up for the impact – both in terms of generating enthusiasm and dedication, and also learning-by-watching – that regular FTA tv coverage of England internationals provides.

    I tried cricket aged 8. I thought it was boring and confusing and mainly seemed to involve strapping pads to your legs, being made to throw in a really awkward and unnatural way, and standing in a field and not a lot else. Football was far easier and far more fun.

    Its only when I watched 3 consecutive summers of test cricket on the tv from 91 to 93 (because it was England, and being a patriotic 10-year old, I would have watched England play tiddlywinks. I desperately wanted “us” to win, even if I didn’t quite understand the rules at first) that I became inspired to give it another shot and fell in love with the game.


    • dannycricket February 20, 2018 / 4:30 pm

      No, having cricket freely and widely available is obviously better than schemes, promoting the sport and all of the other things the ECB could have done. But you know what is definitely worse than schemes, promoting the sport and all of the other things the ECB could have done? Nothing. As in, the ECB did nothing and that was a lot worse.


      • AB February 21, 2018 / 10:43 am

        Indeed. The ECB have been useless and complacent in pretty much every possible way. They’ve given no help or financial assistance to our club or any other club in the area that we’re aware of. I’ve been on all their coaching courses and paid the best part of £600 of my own money for them over the course of the past 10 years – which I don’t begrudge, because they’re fun, albeit really not all that useful from a technical sense. (You should write an article on the radical changes to the coaching advice between 2013 and 2015 – we’re not even supposed to demonstrate a bowling action anymore)

        I’m sorry to bang on endlessly about the damage of not having cricket on FTA tv is, but when you are actively trying to coach cricket to kids on a weekly basis, as I am right now, it just constantly strikes you over and over how strange it is that the majority of these kids have ever seen a cricket match on the tv and how difficult it makes it to try to teach them the game and fire some enthusiasm into them about the subtle arts of swing and spin, or the joys of a cleanly struck cover drive.

        I’ve learnt now to be able to predict pretty accurately which 10 year olds will still be playing cricket aged 14. It has nothing to do with ability – I’ve seen some very talented cricketers walk away from the sport aged 13 because none of their friends were into it – its entirely controlled by a) do they go to private school, and b) do they have a cricket-mad dad who has sky sports. If they don’t have either of those things, they probability of them sticking with cricket for more than a few years are basically zero.


        • quebecer February 24, 2018 / 3:03 am

          Hi AB. I for one would be incredibly interested if you had time to maybe write a longer piece on exactly what those coaching changes were. In your own time of course, but by Sunday afternoon would be best.


        • dannycricket February 24, 2018 / 7:39 am

          Absolutely! Whilst we’re all big cricket fans, none of the writers here are particularly involved in club cricket. If you (or anyone else reading this) was interested in writing a post about it then we would certainly consider making it a guest post here. You can send it to our emails in the Contact Us page, or catch us on Twitter.


  5. Mark February 20, 2018 / 1:03 pm

    The ECB is a private club, and not to be confused with being a governing body of a sport. They do what is in their best interest. That is not always what is in crickets best interest.


    • LordCanisLupus February 20, 2018 / 6:46 pm

      Watching the Cricketer bigging up Paul Downton (great when your colleague is editor) is fun to watch.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark February 20, 2018 / 8:45 pm

        The Middlesex mafia late 1970s/1980s. How many balls did 39 bowl to Downton? How many catches did Downton take off 39s bowling?

        And another one of the Middlesex attack sits up in the press box reporting diligently and without a hint of bias. And their batsman and former England captain who went off to South Africa is an ECB stalwart.

        No conflict of interest anywhere on the horizon. Nothing to see here, please move along.

        Liked by 1 person

        • man in a barrel February 20, 2018 / 11:47 pm

          Tradition comes into this. Some stalwart County pros would end up as coaches at public schools. Wilfrid Rhodes, who retired at 50,coached at Eton. Ticker Mitchell and Maurice Leyland coached YCC .George Geary of Leicester coached Peter May at Charterhouse etc. I even got coaching at my school from Laurie Fishlock – look him. up, he opened the batting for Surrey with Jack Hobbs and got capped for England. Lovely guy, rubbish coach.

          Things have changed since the 1970s and this is what administrators need to recognise. Downton was a 70s appointment. And why keep blaming Downton? He might have thought it was like getting Colin Cowdrey back to coach Kent!


        • LordCanisLupus February 22, 2018 / 11:39 am

          “I’ve been told”.

          Answers on a postcard.


          • oreston February 22, 2018 / 12:51 pm

            Let’s not let an inconvenient little detail like a comparison of the two bowlers’ actual returns across the series get in the way of “good journalism”, eh? If Leach’s two five wicket hauls in a losing cause make him “ordinary” then Crane has been… what exactly?

            Liked by 1 person

          • AB February 22, 2018 / 1:29 pm

            His sucking up to Andy skills have been very ordinary indeed.

            Just be thankful I said “up to”.


          • oreston February 22, 2018 / 1:44 pm

            Very thankful for that, AB. I’ve just had my lunch…


  6. metatone February 20, 2018 / 7:49 pm

    Great piece and important comments.
    I’ll emphasise again the lack of promotion – cricket needs to understand it is up against it and has to work for new recruits. It’s up against other sports which are far easier and more fun to play as a kid. And then a host of smaller sports whose setups are a lot more serious about recruiting…


  7. Baz February 20, 2018 / 11:24 pm

    So Milo cricket in Australia showed what a great partnership was possible between kids cricket and a commercial sponsor.

    So where is the All Stars Cricket major sponsor to subsidise the kit / membership to even more ridiculously lower levels – why has no major company sponsored this great initiative?

    Either Hitting 40 – 50+ thousand families was not enough of an incentive, cricket is not cool with the big companies or ECB were asking too much. But even a £10 per child subsidy would’ve been popular.

    And while I’m at it where are the major celebs – last I saw some bloke from Cbeebies is now the main ambassador!


    • dannycricket February 21, 2018 / 6:55 am

      Yes, and the extra money from sponsorship could go to the clubs, so the scheme doesn’t cost them as much. It’s unclear if the ECB even tried to find a sponsor, but you can see why companies wouldn’t be interested. English cricket is a sport in decline, and the ECB are a bunch of idiots. Why associate your company with that?

      As for ambassadors, the CBeebies presenter isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That is the kind of thing you want to market it to 5-8 year olds. The thing is, he isn’t one of the most popular people on that channel, with only 1,500 Twitter followers so his impact will be quite limited. And CBeebies has quite a fixed output, so I’m not sure if he’ll be able to talk about it there.


  8. Grenville February 21, 2018 / 9:59 pm

    Hales has also pulled out of red ball cricket the G. informs me. So two players who appear to have been blackballed by the red ball set up opt for white ball only. Do you think that a. It has nothing to do with the ECB and all to do with the changing financial landscape (as the graud suggests) and b. Andy Flower is de facto in charge of the red ball team.

    I answer: a. No b. Yes

    Liked by 2 people

    • northernlight71 February 22, 2018 / 7:44 pm

      There’s only one response I can think of to that article. But it’s unprintable.
      Let’s just content ourselves with the “I’m not a selector……” line. Hands up who thinks it holds any water? Anyone? No? Really?

      Liked by 1 person

      • BoredInAustria February 22, 2018 / 8:25 pm

        People should be patient with his development ….
        He’s a confident young guy ….
        But he also knows he has got a lot of learning to do, and overs to get under his belt, to come anywhere near to mastering his very difficult art…
        Selection is not down to me but..
        Most reasonable people understand results are not always connected to resources,…

        I cannot imagine what Rashid must be thinking reading these lines.
        I feel sick.

        Liked by 1 person

        • LordCanisLupus February 23, 2018 / 12:59 pm

          Most reasonable people understand results are not always connected to resources,…

          One non-massive club has won the Premier League since 1995 (and even Blackburn were relative moneybags back then).

          I’m looking at all those football clubs on small resources, all those non-major nations to have won World Cups (Uruguay – 1950?), the money invested into our Olympic teams, the way top resourced clubs/organisations have a much better chance of success.

          Not always, but bloody often.


          • Mark February 23, 2018 / 4:53 pm

            Did you see the debate on sky sports last night boss?

            They had the Ping pong man on to debate football. Good lord. They are getting desperate. Sitting there like Lord muck pontificating about Wenger and youth teams at Man U. WTF?

            Sky will have any one on these days. They have gone right down the crapper. Any charlatan can get on and pretend they know what they are talking about. Of course he blamed it all on the fans for their expectations. No surprise there then since in the past he has defended high ticket prices.

            The media is filled with free loading chumps who see the average fan as a giant cash cow to milk for all they’re worth. While the same media lovies waltz in for free with their press passes.


      • LordCanisLupus February 23, 2018 / 12:59 pm

        Liam Dawson must want a divorce. He’s fallen for Mason.


    • nonoxcol February 23, 2018 / 7:56 am

      Fucking disgrace. Not surprised comments aren’t open.

      Also the answer to the “I’ve been told” poser above.

      As if anyone needed confirmation.


      • Mark February 23, 2018 / 11:34 am

        Comes back to the question…..Who runs the England cricket team?

        Officially it’s Strauss. However, it appears to be a joint effort between Strauss and Flower. The same duo who ran England as coach and captain. Flower was the senior partner then. Who’s to say that nothing has changed?

        The problem they face now is they haven’t got as many good test players as they had then. Flower is moe obsessed by temperament and obedience rather than talent. He can’t deal with talented individuals who think for themselves. They all end up being pushed out.


  9. AB February 23, 2018 / 10:13 am

    The article makes it seem like “Subcontinental conditions” in the West Indies are unusual, or unexpected by the Lions. The West Indies has had subcontinental-style pitches for about 2 decades now.


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