Cricket was once considered as quintessentially a sport for English gentlemen. Despite its origins, the game is now the most popular “bat-and-ball” sport in the world. Following football and basketball, it is the third most watched sport across the globe. Already a favourite in Commonwealth countries, cricket is becoming increasingly popular worldwide. Its growth in Europe is mainly due to the European Cricket Network (ECN) based in Switzerland.
The European Cricket Championship, organised by ECN, returns to the Cártama Oval for five weeks from Monday 12 September. Roger Feiner, CEO of European Cricket Network, speaks of the relevance of cricket in Europe:
How has European cricket changed in the last 20 years?
Like any other sport, cricket needed to adapt to a game that fits in with the interests of television and sponsors and also to attract new spectators - shorter games, faster action and creation of stars, and thanks to digital streaming: cricket anytime and anywhere. European cricket now counts for more than 50% of televised cricket and we have shortened the format to T-10 - the match takes 90 minutes like in football - nicely programmable for the networks. Simply, “sportainment” - but we have tried to maintain the “spirit of cricket”.
Why did the European Cricket Network choose southern Spain for their European championships?
There are many reasons – weather conditions and stability throughout the year, a wonderful natural cricket ground in Cártama, a very professional Cricket Federation in Spain and amazing partners like the Junta de Andalucía’s Sports Department, the mayor of Cártama and his team; plus the many top suppliers such as our hotel Sunset Beach Club, Mateos bus services, CarGest with its rental cars, the Costa del Sol Tourism Board, Purple Pepper Catering and, last but not least, the delicious Victoria beer, the beer of Malaga.
What are the challenges of organising European cricket’s most important event?
To be honest, the challenges are mainly due to the pandemic situation (hopefully in the past); the unforeseen economic developments resulting in higher transportation costs and making people, living on the Costa del Sol and across the Malaga province, aware of the wonderful and thrilling atmosphere at the European Cricket Championships and encouraging them to spend some amazing hours in Cártama which is really on their doorstep.
How many people will be watching the matches every day?
Thanks to the new match schedules that run from 11.30 h until 21.30 h every day, we expect more people coming in after office hours – we expect a couple of hundred in the “qualifying weeks” (1 – 4) and thousands in finals week where the winners of the qualifying rounds compete against the reigning champion England.
What can fans expect?
We have everything to make the visit to the European Cricket Championship a great and unforgettable experience – the best European cricketers, five matches a day, free parking, free entrance, sheltered seats, drinks, food and DJ Lee Jay playing music!
For five weeks, 21 nations will battle it out to become this year’s European champion. England, the reigning winner, is instantly qualified for finals week. The other 20 countries will participate in four different knock-out competitions. The winner of each week will face the English team and fight for the coveted European Cricket Cup from 10 to 14 October.
Jay Wild, President of the Costa del Sol Cricket Club, reflects on what the European Cricket Championships signifies for the Cártama Oval and cricket in Andalucía:
What do the Championships mean for the Costa del Sol Cricket Club and the game in Spain?
It’s a once-a-year event and we are proud to have been chosen to be part of this magnificent stage to promote cricket. You have to be aware that all the cricket lovers around the world are watching these five weeks here on the Costa del Sol; we are in the middle of it and running it. It’s an amazing moment for us as a club and Cricket España as the host federation.
How are you going to involve local people in the Championships?
There is a lot of involvement – there are a lot of local businesses supporting the event during the five weeks. Local suppliers include: Andamios Berrocal, Merkader, Tobelem and Rino Alquileres. For me, one of the highlights is the project with the international schools called “cricket’scool”, where around 500 schoolchildren are getting the chance to experience top-class cricket during the whole event. The ECC is an unforgettable project for everyone.
Why should the Costa del Sol’s English-speaking community support the event?
Cricket is hugely popular in a lot of English-speaking countries. This is a gathering of English-speaking (and Spanish-speaking) sport lovers on the marvellous Cártama Cricket Ground. It’s a fantastic competition with international cricket every week (Monday-Friday). We hope a lot of English people will come on finals week to cheer on their country, the reigning champions.