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Staff Profile: Andy Fairbairn

Andy Fairbairn has been the Cricket Development Manager for the Somerset Cricket Board for more than five years.

During that time there have been many developments in the recreational game.

Andy grew up in Suffolk, where he played his cricket for Bury St Edmunds CC. He then had a couple of years overseas and has been involved in cricket full time for 13 years. He started working for the Devon Cricket Board (DCB) as a community coach in Torbay and then became a Cricket Development Officer working with clubs and from there he got the post with Somerset in 2012.

Andy lives in Exeter with his wife Rosalie, who played for England, and plays his club cricket for Bovey Tracey, who won the Devon League for the first time in 16 seasons in 2017.

Reflecting on his time at Somerset so far he said: “It’s as good now as it was when I was first appointed and personally I feel very excited and lucky to be working in the field that I am in. I am as enthusiastic now as I was then.”

Does he feel that the game in a good place?

“I think that we are now in a really exciting time for cricket. The game has wised up to the importance of recreational and community cricket.  There has been some research done regarding the importance of children experiencing cricket and only 1% of children who haven’t played it like the game which is a pretty damning statistic.

“We need to give all kids the opportunity to experience cricket. We can send coaches into schools, we can bring children here to watch games, we can support cricket clubs to run quality junior sections- in fact there are plenty of ways to give young people the chance to experience cricket.

“The game has also wised up to the fact that if we can inspire those children to become future players at any level and inspire them to become supporters or even take out a subscription to watch Sky Cricket then it helps to raise funds to send more coaches into schools.

“Over the last few years the importance of people enjoying playing any form of cricket and being ‘brand ambassadors’ for the sport has grown. We (the recreational game) have become a lot closer to the professional game and the pros themselves are going out to do a lot of work in schools and clubs as well.

“There is a lot of community involvement with the players and in 2018 Junior Club Membership at Somerset County Cricket Club is free which is incredible and a real opportunity.”

Andy went on: “From the performance point of view we have got girls who can now become professional cricketers, and we have got the county club players coaching our junior players regularly which creates a seamless pathway through to the professional staff.

“There have been a lot of changes during my time in the post and there are a lot more that are going to happen – and if we get it right then it will be better for everyone.”

Where does Andy see cricket going over the next five or so years?

“In recent years the powers that be have started to realize that the traditional form of recreational cricket on a Saturday afternoon that lasts eight hours doesn’t suit everybody. There was a massive survey undertaken and the results that came out of that were pretty compelling and the catalyst for a lot of changes.

“Local leagues have restructured and reduced travelling for the majority of their players and in the lower leagues the overs have been reduced and bowlers bowl fewer overs, which means more of them get into the game.

“We have also realized that we need shorter formats of the game for people to play, like Twenty20 cricket of an evening, 10 over games of an evening, eight a side leagues and indoor cricket.”

Andy singled out one aspect of the game that has really taken off since he was appointed.

“Women’s cricket is our largest growth area and softball festivals, where you turn up on a Sunday afternoon and play three hours of cricket, have really caught on. We have wised up to the fact that 50% of the population are females and yet until recently we only had a few senior sides who ran women’s and girls sides.

“We are taking down the barriers and getting more people playing the game, which has at times been hard because cricket is a traditional sport.

“The phrase I like is- ‘We need to create a menu of options’ so that people can have what they want.  The more people that consume cricket the better.”

“I believe cricket has got a very healthy future because it has recognized what it needs to do to get people playing the game.”

Andy mentioned another success story from the 2017 summer.

“All Stars Cricket was huge for the game last year and for the first time there was a standardized welcome to the game for five to eight year olds. We enjoyed huge success with that in the South West and were the best region in the country by far.”

“The success of All Stars started with 37,000 children receiving a back pack, a bat, a ball, a cap, a tee shirt and water bottle through the post. These youngsters then went to their clubs and had eight weeks of sessions specific to them and that will grow next year. We now need to keep as many of them in the game as possible and that is really exciting.”

“We had the Women’s World Cup here and we had the success of the Kia Super League, which Western Storm won and there is now the chance for girls to become professional players and have a career in the game.

“There are also more and more mums playing the game and that can only be a good thing for cricket.

“There are also better links between the professional game and the recreational game than ever before which is great for the player pathway.

“More tickets are also being given out to schools and there are more chances for kids to come to the games and meet their heroes. Whether that’s coming to see the West Indies or New Zealand Women’s team or having a training session with Marcus Trescothick or coming to a T20 Masterclass with Chris Gayle.”

Andy added: “It’s not all sorted but there is now a foundation in place for us to build upon. There will be further challenges but it’s an exciting time to be involved with the game.”

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