Cricket Ireland release three-year action plan for women and girls

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Cricket Ireland release three-year action plan for women and girls

The Ireland team in a huddle. © ICC

Cricket Ireland, on Friday (May 21), released its first-ever action plan for women and girls with a long-term aim of "making cricket the fastest growing sport for women and girls in Ireland".

The three-year action plan (2021-23), created in conjunction with the board's more detailed strategic plan, contains a blueprint for actions to be taken over the next three years. The main aim of the plan is to increase participation and retention of women and girls in the game at all levels by increasing the visibility of women's cricket around the country. This, they believe can be done by working closely with Provincial Unions to support the clubs around the country in providing opportunities for females to get involved in cricket.

Stressing on the importance of increasing participation of women and girls in cricket, Elaine Nolan, participation director for CI, said several programmes have been launched with a "targeted focus on key areas of the women’s game" to help create more opportunities for those want to be involved in the sport.

“We have seen the women’s game be sustained and grow at the grassroots level due to the hard work and dedication of many across Ireland, and this Action Plan will support and build on the existing systems and structures."

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“In recent weeks we have launched a number of new programmes. A key focus of these programmes – but not exclusively - is providing opportunity for girls to take part in cricket. The programmes – Smash It, It’s Wicket! and our joint partnership in schools with Chance to Shine – aim to provide an experience for young girls that will hopefully open their eyes to the opportunities of cricket as a sport of choice,” Nolan stated.

Additionally, CI are committed to providing more support to the national team by investing more in the creation of a robust high performance pathway structure. The aim, they say, is to create a competitive team that is able to qualify more regularly for global tournaments.

While admitting that the national team has generally been CI's focus over the last four years - receiving a 45 per cent increase in funding since 2017 - CI Chief Executive Warren Deutrom stated that the board aimed to now spread that investment over a wider area.

"For many years we have excelled at the elite side of our sport, maintaining a world ranking of 10th against some larger and more resourced rivals. We have certainly invested a great deal more in the women’s high performance programme over recent years."

“However, not all of the investment has been felt as keenly across the sport, most notably we haven’t been in the position to invest time and resources in the grassroots to the extent we would have liked. That’s what this Action Plan is about – rebalancing our priorities so we can grow and nurture a sustainable sport, and become one of the most diverse, welcoming and responsive sports for women and girls in Ireland,” said Deutrom.

High performance director of cricket, Richard Holdsworth added: “We have invested heavily in the women’s high performance system over recent years to increasingly professionalise the sport. Two years ago we became the second team sport in Ireland to offer playing contracts to women, and in fact, I believe we may be the only sport in Ireland right now to have maintained those contracts through the pandemic. We didn’t just maintain these contracts, we grew our retainer contracts to seven, and added 12 additional non-retainer contracts during this period. But professionalism hasn’t just been about contracts – we have significantly increased our investment in health, fitness, nutrition, physio and S&C; services particularly – as well as more coaching contact hours and employed a Pathway and Performance Coach specifically for the women’s system.”

While the primary focus of the plan is on the players and the structures put in place, CI have also committed to increasing the number of female officials in the system - coaches, administrators and other support staff. The overall aim is to encourage diversity and inclusion, and "make cricket one of the most welcoming sports in Ireland."

"The Plan aims to break down those more traditional stereotypes that exist around cricket and create fun and engaging experiences that will hopefully make participants want to come back for more.”

“Is a three-year plan going to do it? No, of course not. We recognise there is much to do, but this Plan is our commitment to action and take proactive steps in making cricket the fastest growing female sport in Ireland,” Deutrom concluded.