The Hundred: women’s football transformed by a new competition

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When The Hundred was conceived in 2017, women’s cricket was far from at the forefront of organizers’ concerns.

The abolition of the women’s Kia Super League, the sloppy, sometimes patronizing language aimed at trying to increase female engagement and the silencing of women away from the male ‘main’ event all featured the game. feminine as an afterthought.

However, while opinion is divided around the goal and progress of the new 100-ball format which is played by eight city-based franchises, with men’s and women’s matches played in doubles at the same venue, it is clear that the tournament has the capacity to transform women’s football.

And to the credit of England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), after a sluggish start, the opportunity has been seized.

The PR machine began to function when the equal pricing was announced, every communication from the ECB clearly referred to the “Female Hundred” and “Male Hundred Cent”, and the media opportunities to speak to players offered male and female cricketers.

Promotional material always featured one cricketer of each gender while the first match, to open the tournament, was proudly advertised as a women’s match. Everything the ECB could do to present this tournament as a neutral tournament, it did.

“As much as we insist on the quality of women’s football, until people see it they won’t believe it,” said broadcaster Charles Dagnall, who covers both the Hundred’s men’s and women’s matches for the BBC and Sky.

“That’s why the first game was vitally important, because it was the first time we had seen a national game on terrestrial television.

“This game has probably changed the mind of more people watching than any game before. We would expect England to [women’s] Indian side to be good, we would expect Indian or Australian side to be good.

“We expect an international team on tour to be good, but to show a national game on terrestrial TV and for other people to see the standard we talked about, I think it’s more suited to women’s football than anything else. “

Sometimes the ECB’s marketing has gone too far. The great pay disparity between the wages of men and women has almost been erased. The fact that only one women’s group match, compared to nine men’s, was to be broadcast on free television was not mentioned.

And nothing has been said about whether most of the women’s games will take place during working hours or overlap with England’s men’s test series, compared to the more favorable evening time slots for the men’s game.

That the BBC announced last week that they are broadcast of three additional women’s matches is a testament to the success and immediate impact of the Women’s Hundred to date.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, many of its effects were extremely damaging for women’s sport.

Not all of them, however.

Out of necessity, the Hundred Men and Women matches became doubles, taking place in the same location – iconic large stadiums – and broadcast by the same commentary teams.

The merits of dual programs for women’s sport remain controversial, as they are often staged as a lower secondary show than the main male show.

However, by reducing the times between games and pushing the marketing for both games as a “family day”, the inconvenience has been reduced.

Even the afternoon start times for the women’s games, while overlapping the conventional workday, did not perform so badly due to the time difference of the Tokyo Olympics, meaning that just like the coverage of the day ends there, the matches of the hundred women began.

Another notable advantage is that the broadcasters covering the men’s and women’s matches were the same for each day.

All of a sudden, Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad and Dinesh Karthik, with numerous social media subscriptions and great influence through the game, discover the magic of Jemimah Rodrigues and Nat Sciver.

Pietersen’s purr on some of Rodrigues’ shots was a delight.

The pandemic also means that the men’s and women’s teams are much more intertwined.

The “one club, two teams” concept is modeled on that of the Big Bash League in Australia, where each franchise has both a men’s and a women’s team.

But even then, the women’s teams had to cling to a men’s league that had already existed for almost half a decade.

In The Hundred, the simultaneous creation of the men’s and women’s leagues meant that the men, for the first time, have a women’s team in their pro setup from the start.

“I liked the KSL, but I think for women’s football, kind of like the Big Bash League in Australia, having the same club, the same products, so the kids can buy a jersey or a cap or whatever. whatsoever and following the men’s and women’s teams is crucial, ”adds Dagnall.

“If you’re a Trent Rockets fan, you’re a Trent Rockets fan whether women or men play. They come as a set.”

The impact of Covid-19, and the need to maintain reasonably bio-secure environments around players, has meant that men’s and women’s teams see each other much more than they would otherwise be without such restrictions.

They congregate in the team rooms after the game while the men have been widely seen supporting their teams on the pitch and finally expressing that support on social media.

The Hundred is also timely for women’s cricket. While national professionalization has only just begun, the stars of the game, its English internationals and its internationals, have been professional for some time. And their skillful performances demonstrate it.

The Hundred’s highest individual score came from a female, Rodrigues. And two of the five highest strike rates in a set have also been women. The timing for this domestic showcase is spot on.

“I was watching Hundred’s first game,” reporter Jarrod Kimber recently recalled on his podcast, Red Inker. “I went to the game with my family. I loved it and thought it was a good game and suddenly realized that I had never seen women’s domestic cricket of this quality before.”

Women’s cricket, like all women’s sports, is on a path. It is growing and progressing faster than most could have imagined and the development towards gender equality has been accelerated by The Hundred.

Whether this is largely accidental, or a carefully curated plan, is up for debate. But for the many critics of the male game, The Hundred should and is transforming the female game.

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