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Empty seats at the Cricket World Cup – what’s going on and what can be done?

Cricket World Cup

Boosting participation and growth in cricket seems to have fallen short with this year’s Cricket World Cup now looking like a missed opportunity by the ECB while hosting a grand game in their own backyard.

In the space of two years, England and Wales have hosted not one, but three major international competitions: the 2017 Women’s World Cup, the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy and now the 2019 Men’s Cricket World Cup.

Promises were made and heard about attracting a million more children aged between one and twelve between now and the next year by the ECB back in September 2018 using this years’ domestic Cricket World Cup as its basis.

A success story we have seen once before with Chance to Shine’s initiative to deliver and make cricket accessible to state schools and communities, equipping staff with key skill qualifications to deliver the game more independently has thrived since 2005, prior to the Ashes and immediately after the success it flourished.

England won that series and a whole nation was gripped.

Chance to Shine took the initiative ever since and has reached more than four million children in over 14,000 state schools and 165 community projects with 45% of those children being female.

But the disappointment of empty seats is a real cause for concern for the ECB, who plan to take cricket in England and Wales to a new level with the World Cup and The Hundred set to launch next summer.

Could they have been allocated tickets at various venues around the country, as opposed to the sponsors who failed to turn up?

Barmy Army co-founder Paul Burnham is amongst one of those speaking up about the importance of capitalising on the opportunity provided by a domestic World Cup.

In its 25th year, the supporter’s club has been a huge generator of attracting more supporters, renowned across the world for being England’s twelfth man by both the media and England team.

Barmy Army
Getty Images

Despite praising the ICC on following the 1992 format with all teams playing against each other and the top four entered into the semi-finals, Burnham felt aspects of the organisation process needed more consideration.

Burnham said: “The empty seats have been difficult to watch. There is always a way you can have a reserve day.

“To have all those empty seats and not have a contingency plan if those seats are not filled to bring people in, I realise it is not the summer holidays, but families could be informed that there is an area nearby and if there are some empty seat maybe they can get in.”

“You have got to create an atmosphere, we have got to take the advantage this year of putting cricket at the forefront of people’s minds before you know it, it will be Wimbledon, and I think they have missed an opportunity in these early games.”

Barmy Army senior member Andy Thompson offered cricket correspondent Alex Stockton a solution based on the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Thompson said: “Backfilling empty seats with a pool of volunteers who would make sure the venue was always full.

“Assuming there was a convenient marshalling area, there could easily be a pool of genuine fans who attend on the off chance they may get in.

“Each stand has a volunteer spotter noting empty seat numbers and, thirty minutes after play starts (when it’s reasonable to assume most attendees would have taken their seats), the spotter instructs the marshalling area to send across the required numbers to fill the stand.

“All volunteers could have an accreditation or other identifier. Stewards will have been briefed to expect this.

“If the genuine ticket holder arrives late, the volunteer gives up the seat and heads back to the marshalling area.”

With no back-up days in the tournament, spectators have questioned the ICC’s decision over scheduling.

The breaks between games and range of venues should, theoretically, allow for reserve days at this early stage and provide teams with more opportunity to fulfil their fixtures.

It is clear that empty seats and washouts slightly detract from an otherwise fantastic spectacle; if something can be done to improve this tournament for players and fans alike, it’s worth consideration.

JOTI KAUR / Photo: Getty Images

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