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The global governing body's chief executive Dave Richardson said that cricket and the Commonwealth "are inextricably linked", with the ICC claiming that 910million adult cricket fans come from the countries involved in the Games
The ICC has applied for women's cricket to be included in the programme for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
A formal bid has been made for the T20 version of the sport to feature in the event in Birmingham, 24 years after the one and only previous instance of cricket appearing in the Games - in Kuala Lumpur in 1998. It has been launched in conjunction with the ECB.
The global governing body's chief executive Dave Richardson said that cricket and the Commonwealth "are inextricably linked", with the ICC claiming that 910million adult cricket fans come from the countries involved in the Games.
"Creating a new partnership between women’s cricket and the Commonwealth Games demonstrates the commitment both organisations have to growing women’s sport and delivering greater equality, fairness and opportunity in sport across the Commonwealth," Richardson said.
ICC chief executive Dave Richardson
"Birmingham is the perfect place to launch this partnership as the city shares cricket’s rich and diverse culture and heritage. 23 per cent of the city’s residents have links to cricket playing nations outside the UK, the deep connection between cricket and Birmingham will bring people together and inspire future generations of players and fans of women’s cricket.
"If cricket were to be staged in these Games, we know every team competing would be guaranteed ‘home’ support. There’s a ready-made audience and ready-made infrastructure in the local vicinity.
"This partnership has the potential to go way beyond a sporting event that can be enjoyed by hundreds of millions of fans in Birmingham, the UK and the rest of the world.
"I believe the players who reflect the diversity of this audience will send a powerful message to young women in Birmingham and beyond about the potential that they can achieve through sport."
Cricket had not been initially included in the list of 17 confirmed sports to be played at the Games, and Edgbaston is not among the 12 confirmed venues. But cricket is one of several sports included in an ‘additional sports review’ being looked at by the Birmingham 2022 organising committee. Any new sports would require additional costing in a city going through heavy spending cuts.
There is next to no chance that men’s cricket will be played, as there are too many hoops to jump through in a summer that will feature the third season of The 100, England Tests and county cricket. But the ECB are more open-minded about a women’s event.
Clare Connor, the ECB director of women’s cricket, told The Cricketer: “It’s very much on the agenda. It’s already been given full ICC support at board level. We will have input into the additional sports review. But there is a lot of logistics and finance to work through.”
Connor has spoken before of potentially having both a Women’s World Twenty20 and a women’s Commonwealth Games cricket tournament in 2022.
Cricket is viewed favourably by the Commonwealth Games Federation and Birmingham City Council for the potential draw of fans to stadiums and interest from global broadcasters. Robert Alden, leader of the Conservative group on Birmingham council, said last December: “Cricket is the sport of the Commonwealth. It would be farcical if the Birmingham Games, with all the Commonwealth countries represented [in the city], with all the cricket fans we have, does not have cricket.”
South Africa's 1998 Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning squad
One stumbling block is that the 2018 Games, in Australia’s Gold Coast, came closer than any multi-sports event to achieving gender parity. Louise Martin, CGF president, has suggested a mixed-gender cricket format – but that would surely have safety implications.
Neil Snowball, the Warwickshire chief executive, has a track record of delivering major sports events: he was formerly head of sports operations at London 2012 and chief operating officer of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Snowball told The Cricketer: “It’s looking highly unlikely that a men’s tournament can happen, because the scheduling in the heart of summer – with England games, The 100, the CPL and county cricket – makes it very hard.
“But we are hopeful that there could be a women’s tournament. We think with the rise of women’s cricket, it would be great. It would need a couple of venues, so the original idea was that Worcestershire would come in with us.
“The problem is not so much the historical problem of cricket not being in the Olympics. It’s more logistical – catering for the number of athletes, officials and all the extra feasibility needed in the Games village. Cricket wasn’t included in the original bid by Birmingham, but the CGF have asked that list be looked at again, and they are keen. It will take negotiations between the Games organising committee and various bodies including ICC and ECB.”
Snowball said he believed that Edgbaston will play some part in the Games come what may.
“Even if there is no cricket, we’ll play some sort of role. I’d think the ground would be used for the tournament expo and the cultural festival around the Games, or possibly part of the road cycling route, because Edgbaston is such a great location near the city centre.
“We have a busy cricket season so I’d have thought it unlikely that we’d hold an event on the ground – like Lord’s did for the archery at London 2012 – unless it’s cricket itself.”
There is a wider debate about whether the cash-strapped city can afford the Games. The cost of major Games have a habit of spiralling out of control. Durban initially won the bid to host 2022, but pulled out after the South African government decided it could not afford it.
Birmingham City Council is tasked with making £53m budget cuts for 2018/19, with more to come. The Games requires an estimated £180m raised in local taxes and £570m from the government. The council have considered a £1 tax on every hotel room or passenger through Birmingham Airport to raise more.
But a report commissioned by PwC claims that the Games will boost the local economy by £526m and support 4,526 jobs a year until 2022 and 950 every year beyond. The athletes’ village in Perry Barr, accommodating 6,500, will be turned into housing – a big carrot for the council.
Cricket has been played at the Commonwealth Games just once, in 50-over men’s format in Kuala Lumpur in 1998. Most of the Test nations sent strong squads, West Indies took part as individual countries and Scotland and Northern Ireland participated. But England (or Wales) did not due to a clash with the end of the county season. South Africa won gold with a rare defeat of Australia in a final attracting 7,532 fans; New Zealand took bronze.