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  • Paul Smith

When Local Sport was Pretty in Pink...


From the Sports Argus and the Coventry Pink to the Sunday Mercury, Monday’s Birmingham Post and Tuesday’s Coventry Telegraph, back in the day there was no shortage of places to read about club cricket.

One branch down the media tree, weekly-paper Sports Editors happily tweaked submitted match reports to fill several pages with the previous week’s action.

Of course, this was before every club and league had a website, let alone the facility to stream their action via YouTube or Facebook Live.

Before this becomes a “things were so much better in my day” rant a la Fred Trueman or Geoff Boycott, I should note that by and large league websites do a good job rounding up the action, while the ability to view Play Cricket scorecards during and after the event keeps us all in touch with what’s going on.

But quality local sports journalism has virtually disappeared – and as a consequence cricket clubs have lost their route into thousands of homes via free or paid-for weekly papers.

Ironically, as the internet provides the slickest, most accessible communication channels, there is no-one left to fill them with the kind of content that helps cricket clubs thrive.

There is a reason for this. Despite news and sport being more in demand than ever before, the newspaper industry is dying on its feet. For example, my former employer the Coventry Telegraph, no longer has an office, sells as many print copies in a week as it once did in a day, while its sports desk – previously occupied by a dozen journalists – now employs only one-and-a-half.

I recall once answering the Cov Tel sports desk phone to an irate former Coventry & NW player.

“Does your paper know there is a cricket club in this city?” he ranted. “Yes, but we only have a Wasps writer and a Coventry City writer,” I replied. “Send us a match report and we’ll do our best to include it.”

“That’s your job not mine,” he snapped.

While the caller had a point, we would in effect have been sending a French teacher to deliver 40 minutes of chemistry…but pointing this out would probably not have improved his humour.

It is clubs and the towns and villages in which they exist that have lost out from this rapid decline in regional sports journalism. Occasional cricket fans, wider sports lovers or residents with a strong sense of community are no longer drawn to their local clubs on a sunny June Saturday through interest stimulated by media coverage.

Community clubs need volunteers every bit as much as they need players, coaches, scorers and umpires, while we all require income – especially after the Covid-shortened 2020 season – from our bars, sponsors and membership channels.

From junior teams and the mushrooming women’s game to league action on a Saturday or a lovely family day out to a sociable evening in a clubhouse with friends, most people will find something to enjoy at a cricket club.

But at the risk of stating the bleedin’ obvious, unless the local community knows what is on offer it is unlikely to take the first steps to discovering these things – which is where Stumped4Words comes in.

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