An upscaled women's game has inspired the growth of cricket during 2023, an England and Wales Cricket Board report has concluded.
From the professional ranks, where 105 players are full-time and internationals enjoyed a 140 per cent increase in attendance, to the recreational game where 717 new teams were established and fixtures rose by 22 per cent the governing body believes the game has "reached an inflection point".
Alongside £25 million being invested annually by the ECB, a new professional strategy is being developed around the game for 2025-2029.
The findings make up part of the ECB impact report, the first of its kind focusing on the effect the sport is having at all levels in England and Wales during 2022 and 2023.
It follows in the footsteps of the ICEC report which detailed racism, sexism, classism and elitism in the sport, and the environmental plan for cricket which pledged to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.
Produced in partnership with The Sports Consultancy, a firm specialising in commercial and legal services, its aim was to "demonstrate the positive influence of the game".
Though the report acknowledges there are "areas where the ECB, cricket more broadly, can improve, to help create a game for everyone," the document looks back on recent work rather than setting targets for the future, clearly identifying areas requiring improvement or contextualising much of the data provided.
The report includes findings from a survey of players and volunteers across the recreational game (Harry Trump/Getty Images)
"One of the areas where we know there is more to do is the continuing, game-wide effort to make cricket a more inclusive, diverse and equitable sport," chief executive Richard Gould added.
The findings come from research from the ECB and its partners, alongside a survey of players and volunteers across the recreational game.
Its focus was on four areas: improving lives, connecting communities, growing the game and promoting environmental sustainability.
Among the notable data points are:
- 3.1 million tickets were sold and issued for live cricket in 2023
- TV audiences hit 21.9 million unique viewers (323 million viewing hours) - the third most on record
- Females made up 28 per cent of the viewership - a record high - while 16-34-year-olds made up 13 per cent
More than three million tickets were distributed for live cricket in 2023 (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
- 13 million people describe themselves as passionate fans of the game
- 1.1 million children were engaged in cricket in 2023
- 317 clubs given funding for climate change projects between 2021 and 2023
- 16,932kg of cricket kit has been saved from landfill by Lord's Taverners
- 54,000 underprivileged children in 700 schools played cricket in the first year of targetted ECB scheme
- 137 new urban cricket centres have opened since 2022 thanks to £4.4 million investment
- 94 per cent of members reported feeling welcome at their club (89 per cent female, 88 per cent LGBTQ+, 88 per cent disabled, 89 per cent south Asian, 87 per cent black)
- Chance to Shine Street programme reached nearly 9,000 children, 88 per cent of whom are from an ethnically diverse community
Teachers nationwide reported cricket as having a positive affect on pupils (Barrington Coombs/Getty Images for ECB)
- First-class counties have reduced pathway costs by 36 per cent for girls and 28 per cent for boys
Gould added: "By going through the process of producing an impact report, it was our aim to learn more, both about what is working well and where there are opportunities to have greater impact.
"Our ambition is to make cricket the most inclusive sport in England and Wales. While we know we have much more work to do, this report shows that cricket is delivering significant benefits today and that we have solid foundations on which to deliver lasting change, to more people, in future."
The Sports Consultancy director Sian Jenkins added: "Our findings show the clear benefits that the sport is bringing to millions of people who engage with the game, keeping people healthy and bringing communities together.
"It's also great to see the range of different initiatives and programmes being delivered by the ECB and partners to make cricket more accessible to people from all walks of life."
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