‘Sport for all’ taking steps to combat ‘West Brit’ stereotype
If cricket is to break into the mainstream in Ireland, it has to clear the hurdle of being perceived by some as the preserve of privileged ‘West Brit’ types.
Cricket does not have this problem everywhere, as anyone who has been to Australia, the North of England, the Caribbean or the sub-continent could tell you; in those places, it is widely played by people from all social strata.
Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom is determined to change attitudes towards his sport, but he is aware that it will not happen overnight.
“We need to shift perceptions of cricket as an elitist, exclusive sport to one that is open and accessible to all,” he said at the launch of his strategic plan last year.
He adds now: “Culture change takes time. It’s not a case of ‘cricket is suddenly cool’. It takes little things to change people’s perceptions – things like Ireland winning on the world stage; then in 2011, we beat England . . . remember the pride on the players’ faces . . . particularly John Mooney, and you wouldn’t say he looked anything like a ‘West Brit’ – the tattooed, shaven-headed electrician from Balbriggan?
“If we manage to get more matches, and they’re on TV, there’s more visibility, and it begins to creep into the public consciousness.
“In terms of growing the game in Ireland, the men’s team is the ace up our sleeve. Success gives us profile, profile gives us something to sell, and any investment can go back into the game at all levels.
“The more we maintain ourselves, hopefully successfully, in the public domain, then the more we’re going to change the perception of the sport.”
Deutrom, who has just appointed a new participation director, former international Elaine Nolan, does not have a particular demographic in mind when he looks at boosting playing numbers, but Cricket Ireland’s efforts are focused at underage level.
“I believe every kid up the age of 11, 12, 13, should be playing every sport, then start to choose,” he argues.
“Why cricket? Because it’s fun, it’s non-contact, it’s inclusive – boys play with girls.
“Everyone I know who has taken up the sport and joined a club stays with it because they love it.”