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People profile: Matt Dwyer, England and Wales Cricket Board

Director of participation and growth, England and Wales cricket board

Published in Sports Management Sep Oct 2017 issue 133
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Matt Dwyer is driving change behind the scenes at the ECB with his ‘growth mentality’
Matt Dwyer is driving change behind the scenes at the ECB with his ‘growth mentality’

Times are a’changing in the world of cricket, with excitement on the horizon for the English game in particular. England has just won the Women’s Cricket World Cup on home soil, while the men’s tournament will be hosted here in 2019 just ahead of the Ashes series.

On the domestic front, the governance of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is being self-scrutinised to ensure the population is better represented at board level.

Attendances for Twenty20 matches are growing and live cricket will return to the BBC for the first time in 20 years in 2020.

Matt Dwyer, the Aussie who’s been put in charge of the ECB’s grassroots cricket operations, is one of those driving change with his “growth mentality”.

Dwyer has just marked his two-year anniversary with the national governing body by celebrating the successful rollout of the ECB’s children’s cricket initiative, All Stars Cricket, which aims to provide children aged five to eight years old with a fun but comprehensive introduction to the sport.

Big impact
Growth mentality, says Dwyer, was behind the scheme’s stellar first year. After planning to partner with 300 local clubs to bring cricket to children aged 5 to 8 years, the ECB managed to connect with 2,000 clubs – plus all 39 first-class counties – bringing coaching and equipment to around 40,000 children.

And Dwyer doesn’t want to stop there. He says: “The fact that all 39 counties rolled out All Stars Cricket meant we had an amazing impact. They all bought into the philosophy of going big and investing in the right resources to support it.

“We’re undertaking a review now and there’s a lot of stuff we’ll do differently, which is great because it will get bigger and better. It’s going to be around for a long period to come and it’s only going to get better as we continue to learn from it.”

With so many distractions from technology, school and work, as well as competition from other sports and pastimes, it has never been so important to get the grassroots offer right.

Dwyer explains that the programme was built on insight from both the player point of view and the counties’ perspective.

For the latter, he says that the ECB is attempting to devise “one or two” key initiatives for counties to get behind, such as All Stars Cricket, rather than “piling them up with too many priorities”, which he said the body had been “guilty of” in the past.

Customer service
To encourage people to join or stay within cricket, Dwyer says that skills garnered from his 15 year marketing career with companies such as Mars and Nestle helped bring a “sales culture” to cricket, placing the player – or customer – at the heart of decisions.

“This has a number of elements,” he explains. “How well do we articulate cricket versus other leisure outcomes? What are we saying to parents about how cricket develops kids’ fundamental movement skills more than any other sport? Are we demonstrating the spirit of cricket and the fact that from the ages of five to 10 years it’s very much a unisex game.”

The former Cricket Australia executive adds: “The challenges here are remarkably similar to Australia, particularly for the clubs. How were kids engaging? How were they getting more kids to their clubs? How were they attracting volunteers, who are the lifeblood of the sport?

“Then there were a lot of question marks over the traditional format, starting a match at 10am and finishing at 8pm.”

After conducting insight work, the ECB marketed All Stars Cricket to parents as a place they could “get an hour with their kids”.

“We said, ‘we think this will be the best hour of your week. Whether you know anything about cricket or not you can get involved, rather than just dropping the kids off and leaving’,” says Dwyer. “That message has driven a great family community environment.”

ECB buy-in
Dwyer says the clubs were “doing cartwheels” in response to this fresh engagement, and it seems that the ECB’s backing has paid off. Since joining the organisation, Dwyer’s team has grown from “about 60 heads to 90” to support grassroots cricket. The curriculum for All Stars Cricket was even developed by Andrew Strauss, the ECB director of cricket and former England Test captain. There seems to be a concerted push to get kids interested.

The ECB partnered with Kids Industries – an agency specialising in marketing to children and families – to deliver the project, but the cricket programme came straight from Strauss and his team.

As well as ramping up All Stars Cricket, Dwyer says the programme will lead to another body of work focusing on improving the participation pathway for children, and ensuring kids from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have access to 200 centres to play cricket.

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