The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is hoping to win the “battle of the playground and the car park” with a new grassroots initiative pitched at youngsters and their mothers.
Launched yesterday, All Stars Cricket is aiming to give 50,000 children aged between five and eight this summer the chance to hit a ball, take a wicket or make a catch.
The ECB is hoping its first nationwide, entry-level participation programme will entice a new generation of boys and girls to take up the sport and perhaps persuade their mums and dads to get involved too.
Cricket has lost about 100,000 regular players over the last decade but the figures for the last five years have been relatively steady.
Speaking to reporters, ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said growing participation in cricket was his main priority as that underpins everything else the governing body is trying to achieve in terms of the game’s future health.
Harrison said: “All Stars Cricket is about winning the battle of the playground and the car park, because that’s where mums come into play and trying to understand their role in what kids do in their free time has been critical.
“So the aim is really to deliver back to parents the best hour they can spend with their child over an eight-week period in the summer.
“If we can do that we’ll go a long way to starting that connection between a child and cricket.”
Harrison said “having fun and having a go” will be at the heart of the All Stars plan, which will be delivered through the 2,000 clubs that have signed up to the programme, which starts in May.
The first step will be for parents to register their children’s interest in taking part at allstarscricket.co.uk — in return a cricket “backpack” containing a bat and a ball will arrive free of charge.
The ECB recently received £7.6 million from Sport England to help finance this initiative, while the ECB has put £4m of its money into participation programmes and almost doubled its “sales force” who travel the country helping clubs and sharing best practice.