ECB forced to delay and cut All Stars and Dynamos kit offering due to fears over chemicals in existing equipment

JAMES COYNE: The All Stars and Dynamos programmes are facing major issues ahead of the 2024 season after tests on balls, batting tees and banners highlighted excessive phthalate levels


The ECB has been forced to delay and cut the price of its flagship youth participation programme after concerns emerged over excessive levels of chemicals in plastic equipment.

All Stars Cricket (for 5-8-year-olds) and Dynamos Cricket (8-11-year-olds) involve six to eight sessions of introductory cricket drills and games, run primarily by 'activators' at local cricket clubs in spring and summertime.

The ECB said that balls used in the two programmes, the Dynamos batting tee and PVC banners from last year "have been identified as containing a group of chemicals widely used in plastics called phthalates and that following independent testing, the phthalates in these items were found to be at levels in excess of those permitted by relevant regulations".

Clubs have been advised to fill in with tennis balls until new phthalate-free plastic balls arrive from a different supplier.

The ECB has stopped short of issuing a recall notice, but asked clubs and parents to no longer use existing balls.

They have only tested products from 2023, not any products manufactured from the start of All Stars Cricket in 2017 up to 2022, but asked "out of an abundance of caution" to stop using all balls.

Bats, stumps and cones have also been independently tested, and are not of any concern.

But in light of the news the ECB are now unable to provide the customary bag of introductory kit to each All Stars participant this year.

And the national governing body also acknowledged that some clubs might now feel unable to stage All Stars or Dynamos in 2024, amid the supply delays which had already beset the arrival of kit for the two programmes.

In an email to the recreational network, an ECB spokesperson said: "To better understand the issue, we instructed an external expert company to conduct a risk assessment in relation to the balls which has not determined any direct risk to participants in the programmes in relation to the balls.


The delay and shortage of kit is likely to cause issues for clubs nationwide (Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

"We are awaiting the results of further risk assessments in relation to the Dynamos Cricket batting tee and the national programmes PVC banners, and will provide an update on the outcome of these (and any other items which require a risk assessment following independent testing) in due course.

"Both Trading Standards and the Office for Product Safety and Standards have been informed of this issue in relation to the balls, and neither has indicated a need to recall the balls already in circulation from previous years' programmes.

"However, out of an abundance of caution, we are advising that any individuals or clubs with the balls no longer use them. The Dynamos Cricket batting tee and PVC banners should also no longer be used.

"We are awaiting independent test results for some other items but can confirm that the bats and stumps given to All Stars participants, and the bats, stumps and cones in kit bags provided to centres delivering the programmes, have all been tested and they do not have the same issue and can therefore continue to be used.

"We are very sorry that the affected products haven't met the standards we'd expect, and for any concern this may cause you."

The introductory blue and orange All Stars kit has been seen as one of the attractions of signing a child up to the programme, so there will be fears that its absence this year will affect sign-ups.

As a result the ECB have cut the recommended retail price for All Stars Cricket from £40 to £30 per child. Clubs who run the All Stars sessions will now receive £20 per participant, up from the usual £10, "to provide additional club support".

The cost of Dynamos will remain at £40 to parents.

The email continued: "We are extremely sorry to let you know that despite all our efforts, it is now not possible to work with our existing supplier to provide complete assurance, or to work with a new supplier to provide all that is needed. We do not underestimate how disappointing the impact of this will be.


The soft balls used by the programme have been flagged by the ECB (Barrington Coombs/Getty Images)

"Sadly, this means we will not be able to provide equipment to participants and clubs this year (other than new balls we hope to provide as detailed later in this letter). We have worked hard to ensure that All Stars and Dynamos participants will continue to receive t-shirts and we hope that at the very least, by providing t-shirts we can continue to provide children with a positive welcome to cricket which is such a big part of the ethos of All Stars and Dynamos.

"We know how much families value our national programmes, and particularly the equipment we have been able to provide through All Stars to give children their first taste of cricket. We also know how critical the equipment is for you and your volunteers who run the sessions and do not underestimate the impact that this will have, including sadly the reality that some clubs may not be able to run sessions this year.

"I'm very sorry to have to write with this news, but I hope you will understand why we are taking a cautious approach."

The ECB had already asked clubs to push back the start of All Stars and Dynamos this spring until May 10 due to the delays in kit provision for 2024.

Delays were on the horizon as early as January, as clubs and parents expressed concern that the ECB had not announced timings for the two programmes. The ECB ordinarily open the priority booking window in February, but this year that was pushed back to March and then April.

Clubspark, the booking system for registering interest in All Stars and Dynamos, has been turned off by the ECB and will not re-open until a new priority launch date on April 3 for previous bookers or those who have registered interest. The full national launch will follow a week later.

In parts of the country that could leave parents just five weeks between launch and the first session to sign up for either of the two programmes. Clubs ordinarily receive a rush of sign-ups from mid-April onwards, so the full impact of delays is only likely to be felt by clubs by early May.


The All Stars and Dynamos programmes have been hugely successful (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Clubs will be concerned that fears over the safety of equipment and disappointment over lack of new kit.

The ECB say that 2,200 clubs and centres were signed up last year to run All Stars.

Dynamos is a bridge between All Stars and organised youth cricket, with thematic links to The Hundred through player videos and countdown cricket, and a personalised New Balance t-shirt.

The two programmes were introduced by the ECB from 2017 – with heavy influence from a similar scheme in Australia – in an attempt to boost flagging participation numbers in grassroots cricket.

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