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The Influence of New Media on Cricket

David Holmes (Total Cricket, News Letter)

Last week Joe Doherty looked at the emergence of Ireland as a cricketing force on the global stage, but perhaps there have been even more startling developments off the field in how both players and anyone else with an interest in the game now assimilates their information.

In the last number of years we have seen the development of cricket websites, notably led by John Elder and his Cricket Europe team, through to the Unions with their own sites and then finally down to the clubs.  More recently we have seen the advent of Facebook and Twitter, or social media.

Do all clubs have  a website, use Facebook or Twitter, well the answer is still probably not , but certainly those that don’t are in a dwindling minority, just this week Saintfield became the latest NCU club to join the Twitterati. So how has it happened and what is the preferred medium?

Probably the first venture onto Twitter came from the North West in 2010 lead by Trevor Dalzell who had persuaded the clubs that this was a good idea to communicate what was going on particularly at weekend when games were being played.  So when the season came around I took my own first faltering footsteps into this twilight world.

Most Saturday’s I am at a game, back then I either took phone calls or received texts form the likes of Alistair Bushe and Ian Callender amongst others looking for updates and I thought here is a ready medium where I can share those updates.  Did it work, not at all!

For the whole year I posted my updates on Twitter, the sceptics laughed and said “that won’t take off” and I was still texting and phoning. The best text comment being “when you have finished messing about on Twitter will you phone me with the score!”; so more work rather than less.  At the end of the season I probably had about 30 followers who in fairness did seem to like what I was doing so I thought; persevere.

During the following winter we had a breakthrough when Mr. Bushe had a Damascus experience; finally succumbed, joined Twitter and then admitted he preferred it to Facebook.  Last year the Newsletter plugged the Twitter updates, once Mr Twitter himself Sports Editor Richard Mulligan saw the light, the rest as they say is history.

So what do others think of the new channel, I spoke first to Barry Chambers, Cricket Ireland’s media manager and a man with over 3500 followers on Twitter:
“I’m all for it, even though part of my job now sometimes involves trying to keep some stories quiet, that is near enough impossible with Twitter!  To be honest I really do not see a downside and I cannot see it being long until every cricketer in Ireland is on Twitter.

Andrew Leonard is looking at driving all our media experiences in Cricket Ireland and just recently we were reviewing the traffic coming to the website.  It has grown exponentially over the last year and for me the key factor that I attribute that to is Twitter and posting links to our site via tweets on key stories.
I get more stories now that I would ever have had access to in the past purely by looking at what is going on in Twitter.”

So what is the favourite Facebook or Twitter?

“For me definitely Twitter, I think it is a more user friendly application for Smartphones.  I maybe go into Facebook once a week but I dip in and out of Twitter throughout the day.  It is instant, there is more information and just has such a fantastic range.”

Wylie McKinty is a former Chairman of the NCU and now has the unenviable task of looking after the NCU website and all things IT. Now perhaps some may accuse the Union of not being to the forefront of all things technological a view Wylie would contend:
“Certainly the Union has fully embraced the website; however it is a challenge to keep it up to date. I will agree that Twitter is still viewed with an element of suspicion and having the link on the site makes some nervous, but we have to move with the times and use this to drive people to our site.
For me it has replaced text messaging, it is more immediate and most now have it on their phones.  Don’t care what anyone says, show me a cricketer that does not like to see his name appearing in whatever medium and I will show you a liar!

It is a great way to see scores.  A few years back we all met up in the club or bar after a game and the only way you know how the team had done was by looking at their faces as you came in.  Then we maybe had a few texts or calls during the day, no real details, now we all know what has happened almost as it is happening.”

Along with Trevor Dalzell Wylie is one of the men responsible for driving the hash tag revolution that enables you to see what is happening in each competition.  What’s a hash tag I here you say, over to Wylie:
“It enables you to see exactly what is going on in whichever section you are interested in.  If you enter for example #ncus1 and search on Twitter you can see all posts that have this hash tag in them.  The key thing is getting people to use the hash tag and indeed the correct one.”
So there you go they say education is never wasted!

For the final words on the subject I went to Daniel McConkey from CIYMS:
“I think that the most telling comment that I can make is that Twitter has replaced the Ireland Saturday Night.  We used to buy that to see what was going on, and then we had Ceefax now you just take a look at Twitter and it is all there at your fingertips.

A web presence is fine but if you look at most clubs they are probably not up to date, then there is the cost of maintaining it, perhaps the future is that we don’t have websites and that people look at Facebook or Twitter.  We have something like 120 kids playing here now and these are the media to communicate with them, so yes it is also a generational thing.

I can see clubs using it for team selections etc. but sometimes that can work against you.  I also like the social aspect; I am talking on a regular basis to some people within the game now that I would never have had the opportunity to before Twitter came along.”

So at a time when we have seen some negative publicity for Twitter and the respected  cricket journalist Jonathan Agnew threatening to leave Twitter over personal comments directed at him it is refreshing to see the positive impact locally.

Fair to say that it has arrived, most probably is not going to go away and has revolutionised many aspects of how we receive information in our daily lives.  For cricket the on-going battle will be how to use it effectively to engage with the next generation of talent.

This article first appeared in the NewsLetter's Total Cricket Column which features in the Wednesday edition during the summer months.
David's Twitter name is @NCUCricketLive but is not officially associated with the Northern Cricket Union
.