Five things we learned at Monday night’s event, ‘Where does cricket go from here?’

Can’t believe how quickly it’s come and gone! Another event is over and we’ve had an amazing time learning from five experts in the field, networking with our amazing guests and pooling it all together to enrich our understanding of the future of Cricket and the hurdles it faces going forward.

Having had time to reflect on the wonderful evening, here are the top five things we learned at Lord’s on Monday night…

1. ECB place huge importance on relationship with the England team

Fiona Staines spoke wonderfully about the role of the ECB, its use of digital throughout the World Cup campaign and the Ashes, and how they saw the events of the tournaments unfold. What was most fascinating though was hers and the ECB’s stance on working with the England team and not just the fact that they had close ties with them, but ensuring they portrayed them in a way that was both real and genuine to the group.

Fiona often mentioned the word ‘authentic’ and ‘genuine’ to describe their coverage with the team, but stated that this was driven by the players themselves, who were always delivering a very real representation of their characters. She alluded to the fact that of course, you have to pick your moments, in that the team may not want to talk after defeats and facing the media isn’t in their best interest, so understanding that balance and those boundaries helped the ECB get the best representation they could from the players and allowed them to repurpose that in their digital coverage as well. A close relationship with the team built on trust, understanding and authenticity, went a long way towards the ECB having a very successful social media and digital presence throughout the summer.

2. The 100 is not a new format, it’s a new sport

Steve Lyle was fascinating to listen to, as he represented the journalists who follow the great sports and the great moments throughout history. He told me away from the event about his trips to Centre Court for the great 2008 final against Roger Federer, only to leave me purring and craving more stories.

That’s a side-point though, because it was his perception of the Hundred format in cricket that really intrigued the audience. “It’s a new sport”, and Steve was keen to stress this point. Essentially, the introduction of the Hundred isn’t to keep existing cricket fans engaged, as often their commitment and following is unwavering, but what’s more the target is to bring in new audiences who have turned their head from cricket because it’s perhaps too long, too complicated, or even, dare I say, perceived to be dull. The Hundred is here to bring a more digestible version sport, a new sport in it’s own right, that will bring more instant excitement, more simplified rules and hopefully a new influx of cricket fans.

3. The BBC’s not back, because it never went away

Steve’s return to the BBC almost mirrors the return of cricket, which the company will have the rights to show once more in 2020. The ‘return’ of cricket to the BBC is welcomed by many, especially as the main cricketing events such as the World Cup and the Ashes have been showcased on Sky Sports all summer, which of course costs money to subscribe to. BBC’s free to air viewing should be the perfect platform for international cricket, but as Steve rightly said, “it’s not as easy as people think” to get TV deals.

He did point out that the BBC never actually left cricket. He stated: “from next year no one can say the BBC is not analytical, educating, and adding expertise to cricket. We want to continue that, but we want to appeal to a wider audience and bring more people into the game.”

He believes the coverage that already exists will continue to thrive even moreso now, but acknowledges that the great content and following from the BBC’s perspective has always been there there.

4. ECB conscious of push in both the women’s and men’s game

Fiona referenced the ECB’s slogan ‘cricket is a game for me’ which is being used in promotional material for advertising and pushing cricket to a wider audience. While she admitted it might be slightly “cheesy”, she explained that the line absolutely delivers the right message, to be fair it’s hard to disagree with that.

The whole point of that slogan is to get people to acknowledge that there is a way for all sports fans to enjoy cricket, whether it’s in the longer or shorter formats. She did stress though that the ECB continues to work on promoting the women’s game as well as the men’s, making sure to create campaigns that appeal to both genders, as well as all age groups. She mentioned that it’s hard to put together a campaign that can attract everyone, as naturally different genders and age groups are engaged more easily by different things, but the efforts to promote the sport further are there.

5. Gaming culture and virtual reality can have big influence in sport going forward

Owen Hughes, with the help of Steve as well, got to answer a question from the crowd as he tried to simplify our understanding of what gaming culture could do for the media and how virtual reality could play a part in the future of sport.

It still remains somewhat unclear what exactly the future of this sort of technology means for not only cricket, but sport in general. Gaming culture and the attraction it gets from a huge audience could teach lessons to the media about how they should portray their content and question how they look to engage readers and viewers.

But virtual reality is the really fascinating one. Is there a way you could recreate facing a bowl from Jofra Archer when training down at your local club? Can you recreate these moments that you’d otherwise have no access to, therefore massively enhancing the player’s learning experience? These are the big questions Owen had to put forward, and in theory it could be possible. But VR will also have an impact on fan experience, advertising, gaming, and all sorts. So while it’s yet to be truly seen and understood just how this sort of technology will work, there’s no doubt that more of the same will come into sport for both fans and players in the near future.

If you have some great ideas, content, enquiries or just want to write for Digital Sport and contribute to any of our podcasts or future events, get in touch at james@digitalsport.co!

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