I am a Full Member at both Yorkshire and Warwickshire County Cricket Cub and from that fact alone you would get extremely good odds on me being white, the wrong side of middle aged, and male.
You would be right if you suspected that I was a fan of red ball cricket, but enjoyed seeing ‘our players’ knock a white ball around.
You would be right if you suspected that I was a life long fan of the game, having been introduced to the game by my father, who in turn had been introduced by his father.
I have renewed my membership for 2022 at Warwickshire and the direct debit to renew my Yorkshire membership is due out any day, although I am somewhat confused as to what I get as a member, and why I want it.
Both clubs say a huge benefit of membership is early access to International Tickets, and I agree with them that this is a benefit. But is it a benefit of County Membership, or a benefit that the County hosts Internationals. Bear with me!
If Headingley and Edgbaston offered Stadium Memberships for say £150 which guaranteed a number of tickets for each game wouldn’t that be the same way as delivering that benefit, in a more attractive way? It could be open to anyone that wanted to pay a premium for their tickets, which is an attractive option for those needing to plan ahead. Financially it would probably make sense. I am making up the numbers here based on limited facts and to stress a point but take 4,000 traditional memberships at £250 per annum, a nice round £1,000,000 which would require 6,666 stadium memberships, so if a stadium membership entitled a member to 2 guaranteed tickets per game (which they have to pay for of course) that is 13,333 tickets ‘allocated’ to members, still leaving a reasonable number for general sale.
All grounds hosting Internationals could do this, although of course not all grounds host internationals but that is an existing state of affairs.
Clubs have already started to offer White Ball Memberships and however divisive the terms may be red ball and white ball are her to stay so let us embrace them.
Typically there are around 24 ‘home’ days of red ball cricket scheduled each year so how about a red ball membership of £100.
With around 4 One Day and 7 T20 home games per season how about a white ball membership of £80.
As a ‘member’ I am given the option of paying as much as £330 a year for International, red ball and white ball, or perhaps I want to watch internationals and red ball (£250), internationals and white ball (£230), or ‘just’ my red and white ball (£180).
I know, no mention of The Hundred, for a very good reason. It has nothing to do with being a a county member, something the ECB and the counties themselves have forgotten, so offer it as a Stadium Membership i.e. a stand alone offering.
This however is just side of the membership equation. Apart from the obvious benefit of membership, the cricket, what else do I get. I will hazard a guess that not too many of my fellow current member really need 10% off a replica playing shirt whose sole reason of existence seems to be promote a company I have no interest in. (Whilst I am at it, I thought the way sponsorship worked was people paid you to promote them!). I suspect we all have credit card holders, coffee mugs and water bottles.
So what do I want? Well the first thing I want is NOT a barrage of emails telling me how lucky I am that the club has found yet another way to entice me to spend money. I hope I am not alone when I say that nothing makes me feel less like a member than being regularly ‘spammed’ for more cash.
Warwickshire offer members nets which are great for me, but not for the majority I accept, but they have brought me into contact with the players as they train at the same time. They have all been most welcoming and maybe more interaction with the players and coaches would be a good benefit?
The real point though is that I am the wrong person to ask. The people to ask are those that are not members. At a recent members event I did not see a non white face amongst the members, the average age must have been 60, and 90% of us were male. Looking at us I would not have said that was a cohort for the future! Basically we are all pretty settled and comfortable with our membership, too tired to put up too much of a resistance, not overly worried about the value, but also with far fewer renewal dates ahead of us than behind us.
Maybe more focus on the word ‘club’, hosting a wider range of events, giving more access to the facilities, making the venue less imposing and more welcoming, celebrations for religious and festive days for all religions and cultures. A place to ‘hang out’, to feel at home and welcome, to take your friends, to be educated.
I do not have the answer, there probably is no single answer. I know where I would look for it though and that is not amongst my fellow members at £230 a year and with a declining number of renewal years ahead I would be looking for something new to keep us traditionalists happy, but I would find that from the huge cohort of non members. Get talking to them in their homes, not via social media, not by inviting them to the ‘fortress’ but in their communities where they feel comfortable and you will see who they are, what they like, what they want.