• 13 September 2021

267,000 people…

Quite a lot, isn’t it?

That’s more than a quarter of a million people that attended Women’s Hundred fixtures, English cricket’s brand-new tournament that brought competition from both genders together in the same stadium, on the same day for the first time ever.

Devised way back in 2018 as a means of attracting new fans to the sport, The Hundred was much criticised at first, with naysay-ers accusing it of distorting the traditions of the game by doing away with ‘six ball overs’ and instead counting the game down from 100 balls. 

Using the success of the England Women’s team winning the world cup on home soil the year before, the ECB took the opportunity to focus marketing spend in a gender-neutral way and levelling the playing field through equal prize pots. The Hundred launch coincided with the introduction for this season of 41 full-time domestic contracts for the best talent in Britain. 

The Hundred extravaganza ended in front of a sell-out Lord’s crowd which saw Oval Invincibles win the women’s competition, with the Southern Brave taking the men’s title. The TV audience, meanwhile, peaked at 1.4 million for the women’s game, with the men’s game drawing a peak crowd of 2.4 million.

Overall, some 510,000 tickets were sold and issued for the competition, with grounds across the country posting sell-outs and 19% of all tickets sold, being for children. ECB analysis shows that 55% of ticket buyers had not bought a ticket for cricket in England or Wales previously.

Impressive numbers, and surely eclipsing the ECB’s wildest dreams when the tournament was first devised among a range of negative sentiment and dissenting voices. 

However, with an immensely successful debut tournament behind them, the question now has to be, what comes next for the women’s game?

As the tournament closed, attentions turned to internationals, and the England Women’s T20i series with New Zealand.

Ahead of it, captain Heather Knight spoke openly about the need for future development.

"It's about now trying to transfer those fans to coming more regularly," said Knight in a prematch press conference.

"With those events that are really well supported, it's making sure you transfer this all year round. A lot can be taken into the women's international game. I'd like to see the same marketing budget.”

It already looks like she won’t be disappointed. 

The increase in exposure has seen an increase in social media across all of England women’s teams, as well as the players themselves.

The ECB have made noises about new commercial partners coming into the women’s game, and it’s certain that the organisation will place the female players even more centrally in The Hundred’s marketing for 2022 than it did for 2021. 

International players are now more widely known than before, while prestigious talents like Shafali Verma and Alice Capsey are being watched and admired in the same way that younger versions of Virat Kohli and Joe Root once were.

But importantly, this also needs to trickle down to grassroots level – where the playing field has been far from equal for some time. 

Initial signs, in this respect, have been positive – and news reports of club cricket pivoting towards 100-ball fixtures for women has been spread far and wide. 

Undoubtedly, all good news, and both the players themselves – at elite and grassroots levels – and the ECB are right to be optimistic. 

But with progress, comes increased risks, and there is plenty to be wary of moving forward.