Cricket Ireland have launched an ambitious five-year plan to become a mainstream sport, with the goal of taking the game to new audiences and beginning to rival the popularity of football, rugby and GAA by 2020.
Not content with grabbing the headlines every few years with stunning performances on the global stage - like beating Pakistan, England and the West Indies at the World Cup - cricket wants a permanent place in the consciousness of the Irish public.
“Our goal of playing Test matches by the end of 2020 needs to be broader and more ambitious – it needs to envision Ireland not just being a major force in cricket, but cricket being a major force in Ireland,” said Cricket Ireland CEO Warren Deutrom.
“When we think of ‘major’ in Ireland, we think of GAA, rugby and football. Well, why not cricket too?.”
“We need to shift perceptions of cricket as an elitist, exclusive sport to one that is open and accessible to ALL. We need to de-mystify the sport for the Irish public by making it visible, accessible, affordable and inspiring.”
More games against Full Members is one way of achieving this aim and Deutrom revealed two further fixtures for the men’s senior team against Hong Kong in September.
These are in addition to the 11 ODI’s already scheduled against Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, South Africa and Australia this year, while a further announcement of more ODI’s in 2017 will be made tomorrow in Belfast.
In a further boost for the women’s game, he also announced six home matches for Ireland Women against Bangladesh, in addition to the seven games already scheduled this summer against South Africa.
In his speech to assembled guests, Deutrom outlined the importance of club cricket to the success of the strategic plan, and announced a new scheme to help clubs grow in addition to the support currently provided by the governing body.
He continued; “The Cricket Ireland plan recognises clubs as the hub of the sport and places them at the centre of focus for grass-roots development, helping them benefit from the record number of participants at school and youth level currently enjoying the game.
“We are launching a club fund to assist the clubs with grants for equipment and facilities in addition to the practical support we provide already.”
The KPC Group were unveiled at the event as main team sponsor for the next three years as well as headline sponsor of the forthcoming home series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, and the prestigious Cricket Ireland Awards.
The KPC Group are a global conglomerate with extensive and diverse business interests in India and the USA.
Dr. Kali Pradip Chaudhuri, the Chairman and Founder of the KPC Group of Companies said of the three-year sponsorship agreement: “The KPC Group are delighted to announce our eminent partnership with Cricket Ireland for the next three years. Cricket Ireland’s growing global status and vision is very impressive and we look forward to working with them on their journey to Test cricket.”
The latest sponsorship boost was welcomed by Cricket Ireland Commercial Director Dennis Cousins who said: “Our new partnership with The KPC Group reflects our growing profile worldwide and our commercial appeal to global brands.”
In further good news at the event, Irish sports company O’Neills are putting their shirts on further success for the Ireland cricket team by extending their sponsorship deal for a further four years to the end of the decade.
O’Neills provide all training and playing attire for the Senior Men’s, Women’s, Development, Underage, Interprovincial squads and umpires, as well as an exciting range of high quality replica wear for both male and female supporters.
The deal which runs until the end of 2019, will also see O’Neills renewing their sponsorship of the Ulster Cup, Shield and Plate competitions.
Kieran Kennedy, Managing Director of O’Neills Sports International Ltd said: “Cricket Ireland has done a fantastic job in promoting the game throughout the country. It is an exciting time for Irish cricket, and the success of the international team speaks for itself. The game’s popularity is greater than ever and we are looking forward to continuing O’Neills partnership with Cricket Ireland for another four years.”
Cricket Ireland and O’Neills also revealed plans for an exciting new joint venture between both parties to launch a new online store where people can buy replica kit, leisure wear and cricket equipment and accessories.