ESCA President’s New Year’s Message

As we negotiate the final throes of a turbulent, Brexit filled 2018, we are on the eve of a possibly equally turbulent 2019.  As importantly the new season is a little under four months away – a long time in anyone’s book, and hopefully time enough for any remaining scars of battle to fade and renewed optimism for a successful 2019 season to resurface.

Alongside optimism, there are other words that strike me as important for season 2019; opportunity, sustainability and collaboration.  There is a danger of dwelling too much on the past and ending up naval gazing, however we do need to look back to take lessons learned forward, acting upon them for the betterment of the sporty.

There was a lot to celebrate and be encouraged about in 2018 in terms of Scottish cricket; who can forget June 10th and those 6 precious runs?  With the celebrations came opportunity, in this case to showcase all that is good with Scottish cricket.  It has encouraged Cricket Scotland to push forward with the ambition of achieving full membership status and, whilst it does not affect the final line up of the 2019 ODI World Cup and the travesty of an abridged format, it has given the ICC a sharp reminder of the importance of Associate Nations.

Sadly I don’t believe the cricketing community as a whole capitalised on the opportunity enough.  Despite all the positivity, it hasn’t caused a significant number of new players, particularly younger players, to pick up the game in Scotland.  In fairness, it is not quite like tennis, where Wimbledon influenced youngsters suddenly want to be the next Andy Murray and rush to convince parents to by a racket.  But we certainly didn’t help ourselves by not collectively shouting from the hilltops.

It is encouraging to see the outcomes from those clubs in ESCA who did seize the opportunity to develop their club in their community.  There are continued good news stories around junior and women’s cricket from some of the familiar faces and others, such as Westquarter, who have successfully continued to drive forward their community based vision.  Other good news stories exist with clubs who are now on the up-slope of the player engagement cycle and are now looking to grow.   One new club, Bass Rock, will join ESCA in 2019 and three existing clubs will find themselves with new teams in division 7.

I know a number of people remain to be convinced by the reports of dwindling player numbers and engagement in our sport, particularly when there are examples of sustainable growth like those noted above.  Whether or not you believe our game is at a tipping point, it shouldn’t be denied that it seems to be getting harder to simply keeping things going as they are, even for some of the established clubs.  I do believe a proportion of this is down to a limited and somewhat transient player base being diluted between a large number of clubs, particularly in Edinburgh.  My perception is also that, at times, the effort being expended is from too small a number of key individuals within clubs.  With so many other draws on ‘free’ time, club visions and strategies put in place are diluted forms of what they could be to fit time available and opportunities, such as building on positive PR, are missed.  This is where collaboration has to play a part.

There are some really good examples of collaboration, with no hidden agendas, solely looking to drive the game froward (e.g. Boroughmuir and Edinburgh South working together on junior projects or Gala and Hawick using dual registration to get a combined 2nd XI on the field) .  But for every example of positive behaviour, there is at least another example of poor behaviour (tapping up of players is one that seems to rear it’s head all to often).  As a collective we need to communicate better, share knowledge, build trust and give each other a helping hand without thinking a club or individuals are only in it for themselves.  Things like sharing of administrative resources, sharing of playing resources (particularly in the leagues aimed more at participation), jointly hosting junior or women’s cricket, sharing of equipment to improve existing facilities or even joint fundraising could all be looked at.

Identifying opportunity and facilitating the ideas will need to come from clubs and individuals, but ESCA will need to take on responsibility too.  Irrespective, for it to be truly successful we may need to be flexible and open to new ideas.  I am all for maintaining tradition where practicable, but not to the detriment of our sport.  Whilst we need to exercise care and avoid implementing change for change’s sake, we must not fall into the trap of ‘but it’s what we’ve always done’.  This may be uncomfortable for some, but we should all be aiming at the common goal of wanting to keep our sport relevant and enjoyable.

Hopefully this is some food for thought and prompts some ideas; which we would be very welcome to receive.  As part of ESCA’s responsibility it is our intention to meet as many clubs as possible in the New Year through a series of small workshops.  The aim of these is to improve ESCA’s engagement with clubs and individuals and listen to any concerns and ideas that people may have.  More details will follow in the New Year.

There is a lot to look forward to in 2019 and beyond and I, and all of the ESCA committee, wish you all the very best for 2019.