Why Paying for Players is Costing Your Cricket Club More than Money | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Why Paying for Players is Costing Your Cricket Club More than Money

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Today’s article is a guest post from Darren Talbot; Professional coach, Managing Director of Darren Talbot Cricket Coaching and founder committee member of the Surrey ECB Coaches Association.

The hunt for success is making the sight of professionals a common sight on club cricket fields.

You pay out thousands for players to play for your amateur club. They promise runs, wickets and to bring you the league title. 

With the trophy you get on your cabinet you’ll win prize money.

It won’t cover player costs.

Worryingly you will also get less money behind the bar during the course of the season. Most professionals are not local to you and they would rather spend the tax free cash-in-hand down the local nightclub anyway. 

Yes, these costs can be covered by persuading a local businessman to put some money into the club. 

They’ll probably want to put it towards the development of the club but I’m sure you can persuade them that winning the league will help that goal. 

Does that sound like a good deal or what?

Striking a balance

Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against good cricketers being paid to play cricket at club level. For example, in Surrey where I live we need to have a strong ECB Premier Division set up to create new talent pushing for places at first-class level.

 But only clubs who have a natural income revenue stream should even be attempting to do it otherwise bankruptcy, misery and disappointment are just around the corner.

It’s important not to lose sight of roles of club cricket:

  • To produce a new wave of club players through the junior section
  • To provide a cricket club for the local community
  • To aim for as much success on the pitch as possible, playing matches in the right spirit
  • To create a relaxing, enjoyable environment for members to enjoy each weekend

Clubs have many more roles than this but these should be first and foremost. Paying players isn't the best way to do all these things.

So when you are at your club this weekend, ask yourself whether it’s going in the right direction. 

If not, don’t suffer in silence; help it become what it should be.

Before it’s too late.

Learn more about developing a cricket club to make the most of your young cricketers with the Club Cricket Award.


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I couldn't disagree more. The assumption here is that none of your paid players live locally. Take a look at the Northern leagues such as the Bradford League and Lancashire league which are commonly regarded as the strongest club leagues in the country. They have a tradition of bringing in very big name, high profile players who in most cases pro for the club. They live locally during the season and often help with coaching duties. I've never known a paid player who doesn't stop for a hour or so after the game to have a drink in the clubhouse.

The better the standard of cricket, the more people will come watch and the more revenue the club can earn. If the club exec pays out more than it brings in then that is just bad management.

Players should be paid, especially the ones that train hard and give up much of their free time to play cricket. The better the standard of the player the more money they should earn.

You make a fair point and probably demonstrate how different regions perhaps manage it better. However, I wasn't really referring to single paid pros brought in as they are usually very good indeed (unless poorly managed). It's more when you have a first team squad where more than half are paid players. They don't all tend to be local in fact they often travel good distances to pick up their cash as that's the reason they've joined the club in the first place.

Not many leagues in the south of England attract many spectators but that again probably says more about southerners v northerners! Given that few spectators bother going to county cricket anymore I can't see why they would go to club games.

Again to clarify, I wasn't saying it shouldn't happen, more that it should only happen where there is revenue to pay for it. I fully agree that good players could get paid. If your pros are all staying and putting money behind the bar and you are attracting spectators who are doing the same then the model clearly works. My experience is that is not normally the case.

If players are prepared to put back into the club too with junior coaching, etc. then I can see every reason why they should be paid but only if the revenue is there. There's no point in paying players just to play cricket if there's no income to pay it from.

Does that clarify where I'm coming from on this?

I have to totally agree with Darren here; he is talking 'amateur' clubs. What I would like to know is, where is this money coming from? How many of these grass roots clubs charge spectators? How far can the local business community be persuaded to hand over thousands in sponsorship?

In my experience, most players have to pay to play. Should their hard earned cash be spent on a few? Does this not lead to divisions within the team?

Worse still, do you rob the kitty of the youth section?

By all means, pay the players who are prepared to coach and the overseas players dedicated to development, but keep the 'ringers' out of club cricket. What honour is it to win with paid imports from outside of the club's catchment?

However, if you are a big earning club with sponsorship cash overflowing the coffers, go ahead. Not only will you have the money to spare but you will more probably be playing in the leagues that require this extra help. However, this can never be considered 'amateur'!!

Liz is right about robbing the youth kitty. I know a club that charges £150 for each junior member but rest assured most of the money goes to the first team .

I have witnessed at another club a crowd scene not to disimilar to Ben Hur. The quality of the coaching was abysmal but what the heck when you have about 120 children at £80 a throw.

I would like to see more of this money going to coach education within a club.

Also having a good overseas pro is invaluable to a club's progress, and I know, and I am sure some of you know, what they can bring to a forward thinking club.

This is a classic problem.

I believe every club should be "forcibly" encouraged to keep their colts subs (or at least a large proportion of them) reinvested into junior sections to bring on more and better players and to reinvest into coach education within the club.

What happens in many clubs at the moment is that the junior section effectively funds the senior section (and often on player wages which is downright criminal in my view) and all that encourages is for clubs to take on more and more colts just so they can get more and more income.

Once you get to a size of 250 colts or more it is very difficult (not impossible as some clubs achieve it brilliantly) to give everyone regular matches and many colts end up just getting endless training sessions for their £50-£150 a year membership. This is plain wrong and if your club is doing this you should be embarrassed enough to change immediately.

And then there are clubs who have colts "waiting lists". What happens to many of these colts is that they end up hanging around waiting for the opportunity to join their local club and it may never come.

This isn't precisely the clubs' fault and by not just taking them on they are doing the right thing but why not partner with a local smaller club to be a feeder and share the subs rather than give often false hope of joining your section?

I know many smaller clubs who live in the shadow of enormous junior sections who can't pick up any colts. If clubs worked actively together a lot of these problems could be solved and we'd get even more keen youngsters playing the game.

Again I'm not attacking everyone, just highlighting some key issues!!!

yes I agree, my own club battles every year with getting youngsters but always somehow manage to give around 50 8-16 year old players a game every week.

We have one professional who is funded by a sponsor.

Meanwhile down the road another much bigger club are struggling to raise an under-16 and Academy/4th XI but are paying almost the entire 1st XI.

It doesn't seem right that youth sections should lose out because teams want to win the Premier League and Club T20.

I agree that there must be a balance between promoting youth development and having a strong first XI. If the kids are seen as a source of funding and not as the future of the club then that is wrong but if your leagues are the same as mine you will tend to find that the top clubs attract more junior cricketers. These kids aren't heading down to their doorstep 3rd division clubs, they are going to the top ranking club that is within easy driving distance.

On the question of the size of Colts' sections.

We are not a top Club; the 1st XI play in the lowest division of a 4-division ECB Premier County League set-up. But our Colts regularly beat teams from the "premier" Clubs and (I think) enjoy playing for us.

Our Colts' manager has now closed the section to new members.

We allow just 25 players at each age group (U11, U13, U15, U16). Everyone who pays their annual subs gets to play in at least a few competitive games each year, either outdoors in the summer or indoors over the winter.

With 4 coaches at level 2 or above, plus a few Assistant Coaches and helpful parents, we cannot safely deal with any more on a Tuesday evening (our Colts' practice night). In fact, if all of the Colts turn up, we would have to resort to "crowd control" - maybe fun, if we get it right, but difficult to offer the level of coaching that we aspire to.

...but we lose most of the Colts after U16 - some to other local Clubs, some to college never to return to the area, most I suspect simply stop playing the game altogether...

A topic for another post - how to keep the Colts in the game, once they are no longer at school.

I fully support your decision to limit players to 25 at each age group. I think that is an excellent idea. What happens to those you "turn away"?

It's a shame you lose so many of them. It makes it soul destroying to run a junior section and lose them all. If you are in the Div 4 you will probably always lose many of the better ones to bigger/better clubs unfortunately but the others should be staying. Do you get them playing for the senior sides early enough? They could play on a Sunday from 14 potentially....

Good idea for another post though......

Why do you lose them? By age 16 they should be regularly turning out for a senior side if they are any good at all - either a competitive Sunday team or a 2nd/3rd/4th XI.

In my old club, young players would move up through the Sunday team, the 2nd XI and the 1st XI as they progressed, whilst older players moved in the opposite direction.

Each year, the Sunday team and the 2nd XI was made up of a handful of players too old to play 1st XI cricket, supervising and coaching a handful of up and coming teenage cricketers. They played to win but they weren't particularly ambitious about getting promoted, because they didn't want the entry level into senior cricket to be too high. The Sunday team just played for fun.

I think this is an excellent setup, because in one club you have an entire lifetime of cricket: Sundays at 14->2nds at 16->1sts at 18->2nds at 45/50->Sundays at 55/60.

AB I think that's an excellent plan. It won't work at every club sadly but as an intention I think it's brilliant.

I think every club should have youngsters playing on a Sunday as early as possible to help them prepare for senior cricket.

The problem is not annoying the more "senior" players who have been the lifeblood of the club for many years but still want to play regularly.

Well if you're lucky enough to have those players, you could probably have a 3rd or 4th team, or even a 2nd Sunday team. The point is that the lowest level should be kept as an entry level for the kids (and an exit level for the semi-retired).

Agreed. It should........

What you strive for is the one reason most players drop out of cricket!

I have worked closely with two year groups, from the ages of 4 to U16. U16s were a bit difficult due to the fact that most matches, all 40 overs, were scheduled the day before Maths, Geography etc GCSEs... but they were still keen to play sans exams.

However, after U16, they were all expect to leave their peers; the group of guys they had been playing successfully with for so many years and having a great chemistry, to join overweight, hardened arteried has beens. Not only were they expect to join them but submit to their outdated, derisive captaincy. Opening batsmen and bowlers were dropped down the order for primas who could not hold a candle to them. Nobody asked them what they would like; what would keep them playing. All, being beyond their own sell by date decided they knew better.

Not all who play cricket do so because they eat, sleep, walk, talk the sport. Quite a few do so for the social side; I don't mean the bar after the match but the banter during.

On average, three out of each group [originally of around 30] stayed. However, if ever I arrange a friendly match for them, they are more than up for it, even those returning from university after their second year!

So what you are actually complaining about is extremely poor captaincy Liz.

In the club I was talking about, the youth coach doubled as the 2nd XI captain, and therefore knew exactly how to handle the young up and coming players, and gave them plenty of overs and the chance to open the batting.

I think have the youth coach as 2nd XI/3rd XI or 4th XI captain or Sunday 2nd XI captain, etc. is an excellent idea to continue the grooming process. It's not always practical though sadly.

I guess the problem is that there is no "one size fits all" answer to this.

In a club you need both the old farts and the young guns.

No, not complaining about captaincy at all AB. I was complaining about the culture of the club!

With five senior teams and 18 youth teams playing in three different leagues... three club coaches, five ECB L2 coaches, 14 UKCC L2 coaches, five ECB L1 coaches and 25 UKCC L1 coaches, there was more than enough cover to allow for any eventuality.

Unfortunately, when a club becomes this big, not only does it signal the demise of village cricket, it also becomes several entities in one place. The first XI were excellent, but you hardly ever saw more than a few around the town and they stuck close together in the club, not that they were there other than during their matches. The second and third XIs catered for the more 'obsessed' player and the other two were 'governed' by those who should be playing vets but needed younger players to field.

dazzlert is absolutely right... there is no "one size fits all" answer . The fact that he realises this is very refreshing. Most club cricketers believe everybody thinks the way they do, most probably because they fail to look beyond the box!

Interesting though that you saw this as a 'captaincy' issue. It fails to understand what the players actually wanted.

Some clubs are just bad clubs. We've all been part of one, and you have two choices: either find a few like-minded people and fight to change the culture, or move on!

I personally don't like clubs with more than 2 league teams, because that's the point that a friendly village club starts to lose its friendly vibe.

Well, there we go. For all my moaning, it is not a 'bad' club. If only things were black and white but, unfortunately, there are many, many shades of grey.

Certainly not a perfect club, but show me one. Eye-wink

This is a very successful club and has produced many county first XI players... in two counties... and even the odd international player. The Academy, as you see from the ratios above, provide excellent opportunities and a sizeable number play representative cricket; one reason why they have little time for senior cricket until after U16. The coaching is excellent, even with far more than 300 young hopefuls! The books are not closed; when the ratio becomes 'trying', they recruit more coaches, including ex-international players from all over the World.

We have now turned full circle to RB's first comment... is this what the sport is all about? Are we to see more and more 'super' clubs and fewer and fewer village clubs? If so, is this progress?

It does not matter to the club that they lose so many from the Academy. Numbers are always sustained by others coming in. However, it should matter to the sport!

Liz, the great thing about cricket is that there is room for all. Everyone can enjoy the game and there is usually a team somewhere that can accommodate all levels and ages.

I think some people tend to over romanticize cricket, it's always been competitive. It should be. The social players can find teams and play socially but that sort of cricket isn't the fuel that sustains and helps develop the game.

With regards to junior cricket, most parents aren't going to take their kids to a social club to learn to play, they will take them to a competitive club with good coaches.

Having big clubs doesn't necessarily mean loosing small clubs.

If only that were so RB.

I no longer work with club cricket but professionals... not just cricket but also rugby and athletics but I spent many years at grass roots.

When I played, there was no such thing as the youth section, colts, academy etc. It was not unusual for 12 year olds to be playing with the 3rd, 2nd and 1st XI. My eldest son played for the 1st team at 12 and they were extremely inclusive. As Kwik cricket came in, the village players started to set up junior sections. They were the coaches; although not all qualified. The qualifications came in later.

Being in a rural area ie not a city, we had villages and towns abundant that we could play against and the village grounds were perfect. You could always find a game being played.

As we strive to progress, I helped to set up the academy. It started small but grew beyond all imagination. Unfortunately, there are no village teams to play against now. The parents will travel miles to bring their little players to the academy because of their 'perceived' value... and its incredible social culture. The last year I was involved, we were travelling five hour round trips to play the matches... is this progress? District cups and leagues that used to have 10 or more teams now have four or five.

I take exception to the inference that somebody who believes in keeping village cricket alive is against competition. I work with competition at the highest level, more than club cricketers can ever imagine. Keeping village cricket alive is all about competition! Where is the competition when there are only a few teams to play against? Competition is not about having just a few super clubs. If that was the case, we could all stop the fight and let Tesco and Sainsburys be the only shops in our countries. Sure, you can win a league of five teams when you have the pick of the talent, but where is the competition in that? One particular year, our guys won every match, cup, league... was it fun? No, not when the novelty of winning wore off, it was no competition for them.

You talk about 'room for all' but if things go on the way they are, there will not be soon. Have you not seen the state of most village grounds? You talk about 'usually a team somewhere', which misses the whole point. These guys were a team; bl**dy successful teams!

This thread has diverged into two points and I have tried to cover both:

Should we bury our heads in the sand and strive for our own success at the cost of the sport [and competition]?

Being the south, we have made that mistake and have been making it for the last 10 years or so. It has taken awhile but it will take longer to readdress the situation we are now in. Coaches from the club I mention now work in schools and villages to attempt to revive something we have lost. Will the north wait until they are in this situation before they do something about it?

Why are the colts leaving rather than joining the seniors?

There are many reasons for the latter, but basically, as dazzlert says, "In a club you need both the old farts and the young guns." Just don't assume that both want the same thing. Ask them what they want! It's quite simple Laughing out loud.

Hello Every One

Could any one help me out as I am looking out for a club who pays money to play for their club? As I played lot of professional cricket but in the kent village cricket league matches its my first season and I am a good skillful allrounder and for the record at the moment I am on top in bowling in the league matches. As it's my first season in UK I wanted to prove first in these conditions then I would apply for a club who pays to show skills for thier club. As i am doing great in the first season I thought I am ready to play in higher level. Are there any clubs ??? if yes please do let me know and you can reach me at tameem.shaik@gmail.com

Thanks & Regards,