The International Cricket Council claim the sport’s global support extends beyond one billion people – with a thriving female and youthful demographic – according to a survey conducted across 14 countries.
ICC chief executive David Richardson says the statistics, provided by the world governing body’s largest global market research project, vindicates previous “gut-feel” of a “vibrant” sport.
As well as the headline figure, in a survey restricted to 16 to 69-year-olds in 12 full member countries as well as the USA and China, the average supporter age is a “relatively young” 34, and 39 per cent are female.
The findings may be especially reassuring to cricket lovers in England and Wales – where national governing body chairman Colin Graves recently informed them young people are no longer attracted to the sport.
Richardson interprets Graves’ remarks as a call to avoid complacency rather than a literal assessment, following the England and Wales Cricket Board’s own market research.
Speaking about concerns regarding young people failing to engage with the sport, Richardson said: “I don’t think that is a global trend.
“I would imagine that even in the UK this is something that Colin might have mentioned more to emphasise the need to not take things for granted – and to make efforts to attract youngsters to the game, and keep them entertained.”
Richardson is enthused by the ICC’s research.
“The one-billion fans figure shows we have a vibrant game,” he added.
“The other thing that stood out was the average age of our fan – bearing in mind we surveyed (only) between 16 and 69-year-olds – was 34.
“As sports go, (that) is relatively young, and maybe a point of difference for cricket, encouraging that we have a young fan base.
The ICC intends to use the project as a future benchmark.
Richardson said: “It was undertaken to enable ICC and members to better understand the growth potential of cricket, to enable us to make decisions based on insight rather than ‘gut feel’ – to understand where the potential lies.
“Beforehand, we had a gut feeling that the sport was a popular and vibrant one – but we didn’t know exactly how many players, and fans, we had.
“We are in the midst of developing a global strategy for the game.”
That does not appear likely to immediately include any re-expansion of the World Cup beyond 10 teams – a bone of contention with associate countries and their supporters, who were not consulted in the current document.
“We’ve dealt with this point on a number of occasions, but the point is we’re using the Twenty20 format to grow the game,” said Richardson.
“The research does (also) show that fans still love Test cricket – but the way to grow the sport is through Twenty20, and not the World Cup.”
Participation, as well as supporter, numbers have also been properly quantified for the first time – at above 300 million.
“What we’ve realised is we need to make cricket much more inclusive, much more (attainable) to everybody,” Richardson added.
“You should be able to play cricket wherever you are, whenever you want to, in whatever form you’d like.”
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