There are concerns among grassroots cricket clubs that membership figures will drop following the recent ball-tampering scandal.
According to recent data in the Australian Sports Commission’s AusPlay survey, cricket participation by children is ranked tenth in NSW at 4.1%.
With public reaction to the scandal being overwhelmingly negative, clubs are concerned that public perception of the sport will hurt membership figures in the new season.
Andrew Honey, Senior and Junior Club Secretary at Bankstown Sports Cricket Club said: “There has been a moral reaction to the scandal, we won’t know the full impact until the new season”.
“We are going to consider joining with other clubs in crossover comps, they have similar concerns. It’s a big challenge”.
Last month, it was revealed that members of the Australian Cricket Team had engaged in illegal ball-tampering during the third test against South Africa. Openers Cameron Bancroft and David Warner, and former captain Steve Smith were held responsible, receiving suspensions ranging from nine to twelve months for their involvement.
James Sutherland, CEO of Cricket Australia said in a press conference: “If this has damaged the ability of cricket to inspire kids to play and love the game, we need to do everything we can to repair that.”
According to participation data by the Bankstown District Cricket Association (BDCA), there were 36 registered teams in the junior competition during the 2017/18 season.
This figure is down from the previous year, where 41 teams registered across the district which is made up of 11 clubs.
With already declining membership figures prior to the scandal, grassroots cricket is facing the challenge of encouraging new players to register.
Junior player at Panania East Hills RSL Cricket Club Daniel Hancock said younger kids who hadn’t played before might not want to join now, but it doesn’t change his perspective of the sport.
“When the numbers get too small, there is a lot of volatility with the age groups. You need bigger numbers to have stable teams,” Mr Honey said.
“Things need to more closely policed. We are going to implement a Code of Behaviour for each team [based on] their vision, goals and what they mean by success,” he said.
“Cricket has been caught napping [with the scandal].”
While in the short term, membership numbers are of concern, clubs are taking a strong stance on conduct to ensure registered players are aware of acceptable behaviour.
Gary Vandine, Secretary at Canterbury and Western Suburbs Cricket Association said: “The Code of Conduct is sent to every team at the start of the season and we enforce that vigorously.”
Cricket NSW was contacted but refused to comment.