INTERVIEW WITH JON WOODWARD – HEAD OF CRICKET OPERATIONS – ECL
Introducing Jon Woodward, head of cricket operations for the ECL19.
How long have you been involved in cricket?
I started playing cricket when I was a young boy back in England, joining the house team at school. I also played football, hockey and golf, but it wasn’t until I arrived in Madrid that my passion for cricket really kicked in.
How long have you been involved in cricket in Spain?
I moved to Madrid in 2001, after a 3 year stint in Mallorca, and saw an advert in the local newspaper from a small group of locals and expats looking to organise a cricket game. I responded immediately and a group of us met up at a basketball court to hit a tennis ball around and to get to know each other. A mere 4 months later we had attracted enough people to found the Madrid Cricket Club. The following year we found a more spacious place to train and eventually were invited to join the Spanish League in 2003.
What cricket events in Spain are you responsible for?
After founding Madrid CC in 2001 I became the treasurer and then the Vice President before eventually having the honour of being elected as Club President in 2009.
During my time as VP I supported in the creation of the inaugural Madrid T20 Tournament amongst the various embassies in Madrid, including the Indian, Pakistani and British embassies. Following the success of the first tournament we were asked to organise a second event, this time at the La Manga Club Resort. The event was a huge success, with teams from UK, Holland and Spain attending and a special guest appearance from former Indian Test cricketer Farokh Engineer. We raised over 2000€ for UNICEF in our first year and raised around 5000€ for the The Vicente Ferrer Foundation in the second year, gaining us recognition from the ICC in the form of a nomination for the “Spirit of Cricket” award.
Since then the tournament has become an annual event and we have hosted sides from Russia, England, Holland, Estonia, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Scotland, Spain and the Canary Islands. Most recently we had an event which was supported by MS Dhoni!
With the money we have raised Lewis Clark (VP Madrid CC) and I have had the opportunity to travel twice to Serbia to host cricket activities in the Serbian refugee camps of Belgrade. At the camps we work alongside Collective AID (NGO) to distribute cricket equipment and run tape-ball tournaments among the residents of the camps.
As a club we also support small events with the local community (school cricket activities, summer fairs, etc).
What makes a successful cricket event?
In my opinion there are three key aspects to organising a successful cricket tournament:
The team as a collective – Without a good host, great participants and the support of experienced team of support staff (umpires, scorers and other volunteers) great events cannot run to the level of success we have achieved so far. Being well organised and assuring even the smaller details are correct is fundamental to success.
Passion for the sport – you have to meet the competing teams with the same passion for the sport as what they have. Otherwise, how can you expect to understand their needs and exceed their expectations!
Location – It is critical that the location be reachable for all whether it be the teams, the supports and the locals, some who will have never witnessed cricket in Europe before. The location must have the correct facilities to ensure you can provide everything necessary for all groups to achieve success.
Why is Spain such a perfect place to play cricket?
Spain has a desire to expand the sport, mixed together with a passion for sport, great resorts and the perfect weather conditions. Cricket is possible in Spain because of the large immigrant population that already play cricket. Thanks to the weather we are able to play cricket from February through to November. In some parts of Spain cricket is played all year round!
Why is La Manga Club such a great place to host events?
La Manga Club Resort has invested heavily in cricket since the tournaments became increasingly more popular over the past 12 years. This put LMCR on the radar and has attracted investment from Cricket Ireland and Cricket Scotland growing interest and attractiveness for big name players and their clubs to the Resort. This has resulted in two top quality cricket grounds with digital scoreboards and a training area comprising of artificial and grass nets as well as a specialised area for wicket keeping and fielding practise.
Add to this the great location, nearby beach, luxury accommodation in the Las Lomas Village Apartments and the Principe Felipe Hotel, the fantastic restaurants and the great facilities at the spa, you have a winning combination and the perfect place for all kinds of sporting events.
How do you think the ECL will help European cricket?
One of the biggest problems in developing cricket in Europe is the relatively small amount of press coverage the sports get in countries like Spain, that have no history with the sport. The ECL is a game changer on this front allowing people from all across the globe to watch the games live-streamed on YouTube, ecn.cricket website and the ECN App (available soon in the app store). Providing an event big enough to attract attention from the media will provide the tools needed by the local organisations to publicise our favourite sport and I am confident that together with the team from ECL we will achieve this!
Do you think that European Cricket has the potential to become a mainstream sport in Europe?
Definitely!! With more and more people taking up the sport every year, cricket has enormous potential throughout Europe. Add to this the opportunity that the ECL is giving to the clubs in Europe we are only beginning to see the amazing work that can be done!