Cricket Australia has made online registration for juniors compulsory in an effort to improve the accuracy of its participation figures, also asking research firm Street Ryan to validate numbers.
CA has announced an overall 3.8 per cent increase in registered participation for 2019-20, which is now 709,957 nationwide.
Female participation has grown 11.4 per cent in the same period, to 76,400.
That number would have been higher if competitions set to launch in March and April after the highly-successful women’s Twenty20 World Cup were not scrapped because of COVID-19.
The governing body’s claim last year that “1.65 million Australians participated in a cricket program or competition” was panned after Walkley-winning research from The Sun-Herald found rampant double counting.
CA noted on Wednesday the equivalent figure for 2019-20 was 1.77 million but “while this is the longstanding method that most sports participation has been calculated, Australian cricket has shifted to focusing on registered participation”.
Registered participation remains a derived calculation, with CA counting team numbers then using a multiplier, but the organisation is confident its reported growth is accurate.
Street Ryan, which devised the census initiative almost 20 years ago but was not part of last year’s process, has returned to complete what the governing body termed “an independent validation of the process and results”.
The accuracy of the data has improved because of an increase of 56.7 per cent in players individually signing up to CA’s online platform MyCricket; registration is now mandatory for juniors.
Completion of the census was delayed because of CA’s recent stand-down period.
However a two-year project overhauling MyCricket was spared the axe in the company’s cost-cutting mission led by former chief executive Kevin Roberts.
The numbers help CA analyse what is going on at grassroots level but are also used to spruik the game in talks with sponsors and other stakeholders.
CA’s general manager of community cricket Belinda Clark was thrilled with the overall increase, especially “the continuing growth in female participation”.
She said a new female participation strategy will be launched to accelerate momentum.
There has been such a recent significant spike in female participation CA now wants the number of female coaches, administrators and volunteers at clubs to also rise.
The challenge for sports trying to attract and retain players has been compounded by the coronavirus – in terms of the health crisis but also relevant staff cuts.
“We understand that there will still be plenty of challenges over the next few months,” Clark said.