The Worcestershire Cricket Board recently held their Annual General Meeting at New Road and here is their 2014-2015 annual report in its entirety from Cricket Development Director Tom Hill.
Tom Hill writes: "2015 has been another extremely positive year for Worcestershire Cricket. As a not for profit organisation we invested all but £655 back into the local game, furthering the aims of the grassroots game.
"Since new management took over in 2012 the organisation has invested over £1.1m back into grassroots cricket here in Worcestershire and supported further by securing in excess of £600,000 worth of funding for our clubs.
"Whilst our reserves are looking strong, it is important to point out that many of the reserves held are held “in trust” and are therefore ring-fenced for specific purposes. As a result it is important we still aim to make a small surplus each year in order to remain solvent whilst ensuring the funds held in trust are invested back into the right areas, making a real difference to grassroots cricket.
"As a forward facing organisation leading the recreational game locally, we are receptive to the number of changes in leadership at both the ECB and Sport England, which will no doubt ripple down the ladder and have some impact upon us locally.
"With this in mind we are pleased to say the ECB regard us as a proactive county board who are providing innovative solutions to problems which are faced nationally. An example of this is we are the first county board to have implemented a Customer Relationship Management system, better co-ordinating the information we hold on our valued clubs.
"It is a system which has since been adopted by seven other County Boards and is being pursued by the ECB. Likewise we have been involved in sharing our learnings from champion clubs linking to the new national Clubmark framework going live in 2017. All of which shows we are keen to be ahead of the game in order to be proactive at supporting the needs of our valued clubs and valued volunteers.
"With the impending changes in policy and our desire to remain ahead of the game we need to tackle our one limiting factor in terms of our ability to generate income. As a Company Limited by Guarantee this inhibits and restricts donors being able to offer support to further the reach of grassroots cricket.
"Whilst our business model is strong in terms of delivery this is not the preferred model in order to generate further funding. As a result over the past 12 months we have been working closely in partnership with the Lord Cobham Worcestershire Youth Cricket Trust in order for the Trust to become the charitable partner of Worcestershire Cricket.
"Both organisations aims of furthering the reach of grassroots cricket run parallel and this exciting new partnership should help us, as a game, generate further resources to go back into supporting clubs and furthering opportunities for new and disadvantaged players.
"Since 2010 we have made significant progress in reducing our reliance upon central funding from both Chance to Shine and the ECB. In 2010, 80% of our turnover was subsidy based whereas this year was the first time this has become less than 50% of our total turnover.
"It is a trend we aim to continue as we target our reliance in subsidy from ECB and Chance to Shine, reducing to 30% by 2020 which we aim to achieve with the support of the Lord Cobham Trust and improved fundraising and marketing of our game.
"Through identifying gaps the board we have bolstered the existing Directorship with the appointments of Kevin Drew of Thursfields as Legal Director and Giles Cross of Sanlam as Marketing Director. Both provide their skills free of charge to support the recreational game for which I am personally grateful for."
WHAT HAVE WE ACHIEVED?
Tom Hill writes: "2015 was a monumental year for Women and Girl’s cricket, with history being made as it was the first year a Worcestershire 1st XI played at New Road under the name of Worcestershire Rapids, underpinning the relationship with Worcestershire County Cricket Club and the importance placed on providing opportunities for Women and Girl’s to take part in our game.
"Likewise we were pleased to see one of our local girls in Emily Arlott make it through to the England Women’s Development Programme and proving to be a strong role model for local girls by inspiring the next generation.
"On the field we have seen significant increase in the number of clubs offering girl’s cricket as we increased from three to seven on the back of the Women’s Ashes legacy programme delivered earlier in the year.
"Our schools programme has once again been successful with over 74 new school teams entering competitions in 2015. This means in excess of 7,500 school children have had an opportunity to take part in cricket across the last 12 months, with more schools embedding cricket as part of their summer sport of choice.
"In total over 21,000 school children have been introduced to cricket over the last 3 years.
"Through the ECB campaign of “Get The Game On” we have worked closely with our leagues to encourage proactive choices surrounding getting more games of cricket played. In 2015 more games were recorded on playcricket than ever before, with 3,248 games played, an increase of 578 from 2014.
"This was further supported by the EWCT Small Grants Scheme, supported by Waitrose, which saw 21 clubs benefit from £64,155 worth of grants towards wicket protection and improving social spaces. All of which contributed to making clubs more viable and encouraging more games to be played.
"We continue to stick to our mantra of “supporting clubs who help themselves” and are pleased to announce 19 new clubs have engaged with the Cricket Development Groups over the past 24 months with many club decision makers sharing best practice and discussing club cricket issues which face the game."
WHAT OF THE FUTURE?
Tom Hill writes: "There can be no doubt that team sports in particular face some huge social challenges in capturing the hearts and minds of the next generation. Many team sports have faced challenging questions on what they are achieving with Sport England funding.
"Fortunately cricket participation, despite recent decline, has stabilised. However, we are still losing players from the game and need to listen to them to ensure cricket remains as part of their choices and fits with their change in lifestyle.
"Taking on board the changing environment and the way in which people engage in society we have developed a strong new strategy which should see us through to 2020.
"Our new strategy sees a much broader approach to our existing work and focuses much more on where we feel we can add value to the core cricket game. Clubs and schools will remain a very clear focus of our work. However we need to take cricket to those who don’t engage and aim to influence their choices as opposed to waiting for them to arrive at our clubs, growing the game in new markets and introducing them to our clubs with new innovative programmes such as Get Into Cricket which will be rolled out in 2016."
Tom Hill writes: "To show the continuing key relationship with Worcestershire CCC, 2015 will be the last time WCBL will be responsible for the administration and direction of the boy’s player pathway.
"Following this coming season the County Club will take on the responsibility for this key programme ensuring resources are invested into the right areas to encourage more players to continue on their journey to First Class and International cricket.
"This in turn will enable Worcestershire Cricket to focus more resources on growing the base of our game and supporting our clubs locally.
"In addition to this we have an exciting opportunity in partnership with the University of Worcester to develop a new indoor inclusion centre which will become the home of recreational and disability cricket.
"The project should see a £3m purpose built indoor facility available for our community programmes as well as providing a home for disability cricket and Worcestershire CCC.
"It is a great opportunity for the county as a whole and one which further cements our strong relationship with both the university and Worcestershire CCC."
CLUBS WORKING TOGETHER FOR CRICKET
Tom Hill writes: "Recreational Cricket faces many challenges. One in particular may be the parochial approach of holding onto what we once had and the memories of the cricket we used to play.
"Times have changed and has the business world experiences. It is those who are most adaptable that will thrive and those that fail to keep up that will cease to exist.
"We need to ensure we are listening to the needs and wants of our players whilst also encouraging them to take on more responsibility for the future of their clubs and the future of our game.
"We need to ensure everything we do, whether this be local cricket or league cricket, is based upon what is right for the game.
"If we embrace this challenge our traditions, and the memories we have growing up playing cricket with close friends, will be passed on to the next generation through the creation of new exiting formats, coloured clothing and balls, all which capture the imagination of the next generation.
"This is their cricket, as shown by the success of this year’s Under-19 T20 Blast whereby players were made responsible for their own cricket, marketing the events and organising the match day experiences.
"It is important to be grateful for what we have as a game, as opposed to what we once had or don’t have.
"Many sports would be envious of clubs who own their facilities, are blessed with good people who work exceptionally hard and care and have well organised competitions to provide opportunities in which to play in every week.
"We need to embrace these advantages, become adaptable to ensure the cricket offer remains appealing and vibrant."
FINAL THOUGHT AND THANK YOU
Tom Hill writes: "I would like to take this opportunity to thank not only my team but also the Board of Directors who put a considerable amount of time and effort into shaping and supporting the game locally.
"Your efforts and dedication is very much appreciated in addition to the key league committee members who put in a tremendous amount of time and effort to ensure more opportunities are provide for those who choose to play.
"Cricket is a game that can cut across communities and create friendships and memories that will last for a lifetime.
"When I consider how fortunate we are I keep coming back to one thing that sets our game apart – people. People working tirelessly and making a difference in selflessly creating opportunities for others to play.
"Thank you to all of the hundreds of volunteers who give up their time freely to bring cricket pleasures to so many people. You are the heartbeat of our game and without your dedication and input into organising fixtures, cutting the grass or making the sandwiches, you make the game great and for this I am extremely grateful.
"There is no doubt that there are some exciting times ahead and I very much look forward to sharing with you our ambitious plans for improving the recreational game over the next four years."