Clare Connor: Grassroots should benefit from Women’s Cricket Super League
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Clare Connor: Grassroots should benefit from Women’s Cricket Super League

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Clare Connor hopes grassroots cricket for women and girls will receive a shot in the arm with the launch of the “dynamic” Women’s Cricket Super League (WCSL).

Talking to Sports Management after unveiling the six host teams for the competition, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) director of England women’s cricket said that the league should “inspire participation” and present a higher quality of cricket for girls to aspire to.

Connor revealed that plans to grow the female grassroots game was one of the criteria each host team needed to demonstrate during the tender process.

All six host teams – Hampshire Cricket, Lancashire County Cricket Board, Loughborough University, South West, Surrey County Cricket Club and Yorkshire County Cricket Club – presented bids with proposals to “inspire growth, reach more women and girls in their communities and grow female audiences” according to Connor.

Hampshire, for example, will take the competition on a “road show” as its partners include Berkshire Cricket, Dorset Cricket Board and Southampton Solent University, among others, to increase its reach.

The female grassroots game has grown substantially in the last 15 years, with 615 cricket clubs offering women’s and girls’ participation compared to 93 in 2000. ECB National Playing Survey statistics from 2014 revealed that more than 59,000 women and girls over 14-years-old played cricket, while Connor added that a further 1m girls had been reached through the state school-focused Chance to Shine campaign.

Connor, the former England cricket captain, said the inspiration behind the WCSL was to “bridge the gap in quality” between county cricket and the England women’s team. She said the competition would “condense the talent pool”, bring in quality overseas players and create a “best versus best scenario which can give our players more opportunity to push for central contracts”. The England women’s team currently has a squad of 19 players contracted full-time.

The ECB will invest £3m (US$4.3m, €3.9m) in the competition over the next four years, with host teams being awarded an annual grant. Some money will be held centrally to develop logos and kits, while a “big chunk” will go towards prize money – the first time prize money will be awarded to women in English domestic cricket.

Connor revealed that the ECB was having “really positive conversations” with Sky about broadcasting the competition – which is expected to be played in late-July/early-August – and was taking inspiration from the Football Association's (FA) work with its Women’s Super League (WSL) and Cricket Australia’s Women’s Big Bash League.

“It would be fantastic to get an average attendance of 1,000,” she said of the tournament. “That would make me very happy, and for finals day we’d hopefully get somewhere near 4-5,000. We’ll do our best to make the most of the opportunity.”

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Clare Connor hopes grassroots cricket for women and girls will receive a shot in the arm with the launch of the “dynamic” Women’s Cricket Super League (WCSL).
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