Why is indoor cricket being bowled out?

The Seamers Snakes team celebrate a win!

Image courtesy of Steve Howell

The Seamers Snakes team celebrate a win!

Malcolm Coleman, Reporter

The concept of bringing outdoor cricket indoors was a big hit for years after its inception in the early ’80s, but lately numbers have been falling. Why are we seeing a reduction in this well loved recreational sport?

The current secretary of Indoor sports WA and part-owner of the Seamers Sports centre in Balcatta, Steve Howell explains why there have been multiple closures of centres since the early ’90s.

“It’s fair to say, that over the past 10 to 20 years, indoor cricket has dropped off. The number of centres that are operational are down. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, there were 20 plus centres operating in WA.”

Today, there are only five to six indoor cricket centres operating in the metropolitan area and only a couple of centre’s located in regional WA. The most recent indoor cricket centre to collapse was Courtside Multisports indoor cricket in Canning Vale 18 months ago. The reason for its closure in this scenario was the landlord wanted to do something with the building and they were asked to leave.

Landlord troubles are only one of the reasons behind the declining number of centres. The surprising factor is that the fall in indoor cricket facilities has not been based on a lack of participants.

According to Howell, changes in local government regulations have also played a part, as well as tight profit margins.

He explained that around $150,000 is required as a minimum to establish an indoor cricket centre, to cover the associated costs of converting a warehouse, buying nets, carpets, lighting, setting up three courts and marketing. Then you have to find the location which is the hardest hurdle.

Some council rules have also changed with many councils now saying there must be so many car bays per court, and liquor licences are now harder to obtain. Howell added that the area in which your venue is located has a bearing on whether you will be permitted to sell alcohol and he claimed that this is critical to successfully a run centre.

Reflecting on the changing council rules he said: “I think our centre wouldn’t of even been approved if we were applying to start it up today, as the recent changes to the rules wouldn’t have allowed us to.”

So how has the Seamer Centre managed to survive this? “The reason for our success in keeping the Seamer Centre strong, is the strength of our teams,” Howell said.

The Seamer Centre in Balcatta currently has 64 teams and 27 junior teams throughout winter. A National State team, where there are six different divisions that play against each other nationally, with the best players, from all the centres representing each state for the National title. This competition is more commercialised creating public interest through more media coverage, commentary and live streaming. The positive, in this case, is that it strengthens indoor cricket’s exposure.

While surviving centres may gain some players when other centres close down, there may be more involved in keeping player numbers healthy.

“As far as Seamers Sports go, we are probably one of the most strongest centres in WA, as far as participation goes. I won’t shy away from taking credit for this, as there is quite a bit of work and good communication, and ingenuity that goes into keeping our product interesting. Listening to your players, taking on feedback, something as simple as stocking a brand of beer in the alcohol fridge that you know the players like. Little things like that, and creating an inviting, fun and relaxing environment which reflects on what your trying to do,” he added.

Howell has been playing at the Seamers Centre for 20 years and has owned it for the past four years, so he isn’t just an owner investor like some other operators. He is passionate about having the best centre for his participants. He also said, that it is about being acutely aware of things that he noticed weren’t attended to when he was just a player there. The things such as holes in the nets, non-replacement of globes that had blown, no music in the background to give the place a nice feel.

Women are also strongly encouraged to join and play cricket in a Women’s division, either for fun or competition, as well. The Centre also has Women’s netball team.

If you are interested in joining a team for fun or for serious competition you can find out more information through the Seamers Sports Centre website.