Leicestershire CCC’s Sean Jarvis on cricket in the UK becoming a global proposition and growth of Womens’ cricket
February 8, 2024
Leicestershire CCC has been focused on six pillars (cricket, commercial, company, community, communication and cash) and as revealed in a CGI video last year is aiming for a full ground redevelopment. iSportConnect’s Taruka Srivastav spoke with Leicestershire CCC CEO Sean Jarvis to know more about his development plans for the club.
Can you summarise your time at CCC?
The past four years have been incredibly challenging. When I arrived at the cricket club, as chief executive, it was literally two days before COVID broke out, which sent the club into a bit of a tailspin. But ironically, when we look back on those pandemic years, it gave us the opportunity to press a reset button, and effectively bought us a little bit of time to reflect on how we performed previously and what the strategy was going to be going forward.
It was looking at all the different parts of the business, from the cricket to the commercial, to how we operate as a business, to the financial side and trying to improve them. The main focus has always been on cricket first; getting the cricket part of the business, what we call the cricket pillar, in the best place it can be so that it could compete for trophies. The target was to try and win a trophy within five years. We actually won a bit of silverware last summer in the Metro Bank One Day Cup.
We’re now embarking on what we call our master plan for the future of Leicestershire County Cricket Club. At the same time, the other parts of the business all undertook a bit of a review, including the commercial side, the operational side and the community side of things – so all those different parts of the business have all undergone a bit of change as well and continue to do so. Whilst we’re not out of the woods, yet, we seem to have a bit of a brighter future ahead of us. I would summarise the past three years about rebuilding Leicestershire County Cricket Club to be a sustainable and competitive cricket club going forward.
Tell us about the club’s commercial partnerships.
Pandemic was the reset button. We had a look at the commercial operation and how, probably over a decade prior to the pandemic, the commercial engagement that was taking place between the cricket club and businesses in our community was pretty non-existent and diminished to almost zero. We used that year to look at how we can improve our relationships and invited businesses to become partners of Leicestershire County Cricket Club and join us on the journey.
We effectively approached a variety of businesses and a lot of them signed up and agreed to become partners and invest in the club. The partnership between ourselves and our businesses is not a simple Sponsorship Agreement. It’s more about how we can transfer knowledge between each other , how they can help us with what knowledge they have, how they can help us as a business and be part of the journey going forward. We also encourage our partners to get to know each other so that they can then trade with each other. We created a marketplace, so by being involved in Leicestershire, it allowed an exclusive club of partners and businesses to come together and then actually trade with each other. There’s then a benefit to becoming a partner of Leicestershire as well as enjoying the cricket and getting to know the cricket club.
Over the past four years, we’ve built that up gradually. What tends to happen is businesses that become partners of LCCC then start talking to other people which is an evolution and natural progression. And if we are successful as a cricket club, and successful in the relationships that we have, then eventually it creates a critical mass where momentum takes over and more and more businesses want to be part of it. I think our retention rate is in the high 90% at the moment with regards to businesses partnering Leicestershire County Cricket Club. That’s something that we’re proud of and we want to build on but I’ve still got a lot more to do. And then we have memberships. People supporting Leicestershire have increased over the past 3-4 years. We’ve seen bigger crowds which has become a more attractive proposition to commercial organisations and getting involved with Leicestershire. So the upward spiral of Leicestershire has been successful, but it’s been hard work and it’s been about developing relationships and understanding people’s objectives and what they want to achieve and their relationship with us.
On involving the community
I’ll give you three examples. One is around sustainability and the environment. We are developing a relationship with a company called EVE power, which is an electric power company. At the moment they are working with us on electric charges at our ground that serve our community and solar panels in different parts of our business. They bring their expertise to Leicestershire in terms of helping us be greener in our approach to how we operate as a business and we are obviously going to invest in that going forward.
Another one would be a company called Red Monkey Play which was more of a CSR approach. They’re a children’s playground manufacturer and they’re a partner of the club. They wanted to do something with our community to get them to come and play on our ground. So we created a cricket game that was all about everybody from different backgrounds: Hindus, Muslims, Catholics, atheists, celebrities etc. all coming together to play cricket in Leicestershire and it was a cricket game without barriers.
Another example was Melton Building Society who are a local building society here in the Midlands. Through our partnership with them, they helped to educate our academy players on financial management, because what tends to happen if you get a player who becomes a bit of a superstar, they can suddenly get an awful lot of money and all of a sudden, they’re not quite sure what to do with it and in many cases we see they can become very frivolous with their finances. So having somebody such as Melton Building Society as a partner of Leicestershire County Cricket Club meant that they could help our academy players understand their own financial management. So we are using Partner’s expertise to help educate our staff and our people to be better informed and make better choices as they go forward.
What entails a good partnership?
I think it’s very important that when we meet a potential partner, we listen to what it is they want because we want the partner to be a long term partner of Leicestershire. We don’t want them just to be here for a year and disappear. We want them to be here for a long time and to benefit from the relationship that they have with Leicestershire. We understand their objectives and then we try to create a program that helps their objectives. We do have to understand what that business stands for, we try and do our due diligence on the businesses because we want them to be ethical and have good EDI policies. It’s like you’re entering a marriage with a partner so it’s very important that we do our homework and make sure that they have all the attributes that we want. So their family and community values are what we look for before we approach them. Once you have a like-minded organisation, the relationship then is very easy to create and we encourage them as to understand us, to get underneath our skin and understand our values as a business as well.
Growing popularity of cricket in the UK
Cricket is continuing to grow, certainly here in the UK. What we’ve seen over the past 2-3 years, is a real mushroom of women’s cricket. What we’re witnessing within cricket is that it is becoming a game for all. So whether that’s female, male or disability cricket, clubs are now really becoming very inclusive in their approach. There’s been a whole host of reports in the UK that’s made cricket clubs look at how they approach audiences in a very different light. We’re seeing good growth of cricket support in the UK. How the landscape will look in a few years’ time will be very interesting to see because I believe we could see overseas investment coming into cricket in the UK. The UK enjoys a different time frame to the likes of India so our cricket season doesn’t clash with India’s cricket season. Therefore cricket in the UK can become even more of a global proposition going forward but there’s a lot of discussion and debate to be had about how it helps the wider game. It can’t help just the select few. It’s got to help the recreational game, the women’s game, the disability game, the first class game, and the pathway academies. So any investment coming into cricket in the UK has to be done in the right way. It can’t be a mercenary investment, it needs to be distributed around the UK so that cricket can only get better and stronger. This year we will start to see a very interesting landscape that’s developing in the UK.
Cross partnerships between cricket clubs around the world?
I definitely think that’s the direction that cricket in the UK is heading. Traditionally, cricket clubs in the UK have been very closed shops but now the whole dynamic of cricket in the UK has changed considerably. Cricket clubs are starting to wake up to those potential relationships but it’s very early days and clubs are still a little bit guarded but I do think we will see relationships between UK cricket clubs, IPL teams, maybe Australian teams and maybe even American teams. There is going to be without question affiliations or ownership challenges over the next few years and I can speak on behalf of Leicestershire as we’re happy to explore those and have actually begun one or two conversations already. So there is still an awful lot of talking to be done but there is definitely an appetite in Leicestershire, and around the UK, to develop sustainable relationships between us and other clubs around the world.
Will 2024 be the defining year for Leicestershire CCC?
We want to build on the success that we achieved in 2023 and that was by creating an England player in Rehan Ahmed, and also winning some silverware. We want to grow on what we’ve done and hopefully, we can compete to win some further silverware. Whether we can win it or not remains to be seen but we want to be more of a competitive team than we have been for a long time.
I think off the field, we want to continue to build our commercial strength. It’s now about how we develop phase one of our master plan. The first quarter of this new year will be working with some partners on how we can focus on one part of the ground and actually look to build something that makes Leicestershire even more successful and sustainable in the future. So I think 2024 will be about us building on the foundations that we laid in 2023 with a view to real success in 2025 and 2026.
And will that include also developing focusing more on the women’s side of the sport as well?
Yes, that’s already begun. Our women’s team was originally run by our community department on a bit of a voluntary basis. We’ve now moved the women’s cricket team into our cricket pillar, and actually it is now governed by professional cricketers so it’s beginning to change already. We will look to make our women’s cricket more professional and elite in its approach and more successful by sharing the knowledge that the men’s cricket team has had over the umpteen years.