It’s the “travelling circus” of cricket that’s taking Europe by storm.
The European Cricket Network is the headquarters of the European Cricket Series, the European Cricket Championship and the European Cricket League.
It’s also the home of a seemingly bottomless well of both miraculous and hilarious cricket highlights – and the man behind it all turns out to be an Aussie.
The Kerry Packer of European cricket
Daniel Weston, a finance and business guru, moved to Europe a few years ago after selling his tech company at just 23.
Weston used to play state cricket for WA with the likes of Shaun Marsh so it wasn’t long before he played for the German national team.
What he decided to do next would change the sporting landscape of an entire continent.
“We won against Sweden one night and there was a guy’s brother there, and he did a live on Facebook, filming us coming off the pitch,” Weston said via Zoom at HQ. the ECN in Zurich.
“I thought, ‘oh, that’s really interesting,’ because it got a couple thousand views, and I thought, ‘who’s watching the German cricket team leave the pitch?'”
“I had a hunch that I needed to get the German team together again, broadcast and record it, just to see how many people wanted to see cricket played by the German national team.”
It turns out that a lot of people wanted to watch, and just like that, German Cricket TV – a Facebook page dedicated to sharing the German national team’s best moments – was born.
After hundreds of thousands of views in the first week, requests poured in from all over Germany – “come film us playing”.
“Because of German cricket television and because of the influx of people, people were like, ‘What is cricket in Germany? I want to build a team, I want to build a club !’.”
“He went from 60 clubs to 370 clubs in the space of about a month.”
European Cricket was born on a frozen lake in Switzerland
Following the success of German Cricket TV, Weston and his team were asked to help broadcast ‘Ice Cricket’.
This tournament is as crazy as it sounds – cricket played on a frozen lake in St Moritz, Switzerland.
It was here, at a gala dinner, that a chance encounter with Roger Feiner, then head of broadcast for FIFA, would change cricket in Europe forever.
“I literally ran into Roger on the ice, and he said, ‘Danny, great to meet you last night, I have two friends I want to introduce to you, Frank and Thomas’.”
“I asked, ‘what are they doing? What have they done?’
“And he says, ‘oh, they were the founders of (the UEFA) Champions League, and we’ve talked and worked together, we’re looking for a new sport to bring to Europe, now that I’ve met you, I think the cricket is the next sport, and you’re the guy to do it’.”
Shortly after that chance encounter on a frozen lake, Weston traveled to Zurich and started a Champions League format but for cricket, and European cricket was born.
The traveling circus begins
European Cricket quickly became one of the only sporting organizations in the world to benefit from COVID as they were then forced to take it on the road like a traveling circus, where was not locked down at the time.
“We ended up doing over 900 games in this Corona 2020 year,” Weston said.
“Nine hundred matches broadcast live with a five-camera production, broadcast live in India and on our European Cricket Network.”
And that has been Weston’s number one priority – to ensure that all of these matches, which are all T10 cricket, are broadcast with a high level of production that is incredibly disproportionate to the level of cricket being played.
But that’s the point.
“A child of four or five doesn’t know if it’s Ronaldo or if it’s his uncle.
“All they know is they’re on TV, they’re lit and they have to be good.”
But sometimes they are not good. Sometimes they are hilarious.
And that has been the charm of the European cricket network which has not only seen it explode across Europe, but also online.
Many clips have gone viral, and Weston says it’s all part of the show.
“It’s entertainment…we want to make art, we want to make cricket art, cricket entertainment,” he said.
“Because they’re amateur cricketers, it’s a bit like a reality show, it’s a bit like Big Brother, isn’t it?
“Because you don’t know how they are going to behave under pressure.
“So when that crazy one-handed grab happens, we’ve captured it on five cameras, so we’re able to celebrate that, and sport is about celebrating.”
Its watchability is undeniable, and it turns out its growth is too.
“We have 405 clubs that have played in our events now, 33 counties that we have hosted our events in and we have had 6,000 cricketers who have played in our events.
“By any measure, this is the biggest sporting project in the world.”
It’s cricket time in Europe
While Weston likes to think that this incredible growth is due to the ECN product itself, even he knows the reasons go much deeper than that.
Certain socio-political situations across the subcontinent have resulted in a large influx of young Indians seeking higher education, as well as refugees fleeing Afghanistan.
Because of this, Weston says it’s now or never for cricket in Europe.
“This is a very important moment for cricket [in Europe] because if it’s not caught now, it may never be,” he said.
“I hope Afghanistan will be better and there will be no more refugee crisis there, but the fact that in 2015, 2016, 2017 they were coming to Europe, that meant that there had 800,000 potential cricket fans coming to Europe.
“They will never leave and they will have lots of children, and it may never happen again with such an influx of cricket fans.
“He must be grabbed now.”
What’s next for European cricket?
Weston is definitely not the kind of guy to dream small.
“The dream is 25 years away; cricket is the number one bat and ball sport in Europe.
“It’s done to inspire those dads, moms and young kids to play, and that’s what always gets me emotional at our events.
“When I see the eight-year-old take the one-handed screamer she never thought she could handle… her excitement is what draws me in and makes me really proud of what we do.”
With gold like this being pumped out of the ECN every day, no matter what, we will be watching.