Age-Group Cricket Praises Talented Kids, Says Former Wicketkeeper Matt Prior

The structure and associated cost of age-group cricket means that not all of the most talented kids get through, says former England wicketkeeper Matt Prior.

He says the average cost each season is £1,000 per child – £400-450 in coaching, a minimum of £300 for kit, then travel – and he believes it should be free.

“In simple terms, you don’t select the best, most talented cricketers, you select the ones who can afford it,” Prior told BBC Sport.

“That is something completely different.

“You end up reducing your base and the number of kids that have the opportunity to go on and work on their potential, and hopefully reach their potential, and go on and represent not just the counties but England.”

Prior responded to a post on Twitter saying he agreed with former England and Kent batter Rob Key – now a Sky Sports commentator – when he said “age-group cricket should be free”.

Another Twitter user – Chris Mclennan – then said he spent more than £550 on his son in a single season, doing so at the U15, U16 and U17 levels.

Former England spinner Graeme Swann replied: “Praise young talent from a youth system is appalling”.

Previously told BBC Sport he had spoken to another ex-cricketer from Sussex and England, and both believe their parents would not have been able to afford the associated costs now if they had just started their careers.

“Personally, I think it should be free,” said Prior, who played 157 games for England between 2007 and 2014.

“It’s terrible that these kids are selected – they go to lawsuits and then they’re selected to represent the county, or they’re selected to go down the aisle – and then you, as a parent, have to pay for that selection. True is the honor in that?

“If you’re selected for your county, that should be a feather in the cap. It’s like getting a job and then being asked to pay to go to work — it just would never happen.”

Prior said he had spoken to his former county of Sussex numerous times, but time and again it fell on deaf ears.

Rob Andrew, chief executive officer of Sussex Cricket, told BBC Sport: “We have asked for a fee for the pathway program for many years. The boys and girls program imposes a financial cost on the club and continues to do so.

“We realize that the costs are prohibitive for some families, and where this has been proven, we try to help so that no talented individual misses out.

“We are reviewing this regularly and with Mike Yardy being appointed to the role of academy director, he is conducting his own assessment of the current program he has inherited and we will look at his recommendations.

“We are committed to making the program as widely available as possible and offering value for money for the amount and quality of cricket on offer.”

Prior hopes England’s 4-0 Ashes defeat in Australia “will be the necessary evil for people to stand up and start watching the game as a whole”.

“Cricket already has a lot of barriers. You can’t have jumpers in front of goal posts… stumps, bats, access – there are so many barriers,” said Prior.

“We’ve seen very clearly what’s happened with regard to diversity, but diversity doesn’t stop there. There’s also a wealth element and a class element, making sure that this game is open and accessible to everyone.

“We are forced to have awkward conversations. Maybe now is the time. Maybe this is what it takes to change it all.”

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