Barcelona is famous for many things and while 1.6 million people call the city home, nearly 32 million tourists flock to the Catalan capital each year to get a glimpse of world-renowned sights like Casa Mila, Parc Güell, and Montjuïc. For most of the year, it’s difficult to move around popular attractions like La Sagrada Familia, a Gaudi-designed church that remains under construction 139 years after works broke ground, and La Rambla, a popular shopping destination.
But these popular tourist attractions aren’t the only reason that Barcelona is famous. Spain’s second-biggest city has a long sporting history. In 1992, it hosted the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games with the Olympic Stadium now acting as a tourist attraction.
Since 1991, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, a short drive outside the city, has hosted the Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix and the MotoGP Catalan Motorcycle Grand Prix began being held there in 1996. Other major events that are regularly held in the city include the Barcelona Marathon, Cursa de Bombers, the Barcelona Open, and the Barcelona World Race.
However, the city is perhaps best known for being the home to FC Barcelona, Spain’s most successful football team, with 97 trophies in its cabinet. Its home, Camp Nou, is Europe’s largest stadium with a current capacity of 99,354. Barcelona is incredibly passionate about its local team with a noticeable excitement on the streets during game days.
And believe it or not, football isn’t the only sports that FC Barcelona is involved in. The club also has basketball, handball, hockey, rugby, futsal, and volleyball teams.
Despite being a city of sports fans, one discipline that has been noticeably absent from the city is cricket. That’s all set to change though, with a recent announcement that a €1.2 million cricket ground would be constructed in Barcelona.
Cricket — An International Import
Cricket has not been entirely absent from Barcelona. Barcelona International Cricket Club was founded in 1982 and plays regularly throughout the year, though it plays mostly friendly matches and in self-organised tournaments.
Like many cricket clubs in Europe, Barcelona’s was created by a Brit, Philip Paterson Smith MBE. However, this latest initiative has been driven by a group of Barcelona residents, all of whom are women from Pakistani and Indian backgrounds, nations where cricket is the most popular sport.
The passion that many Indians and Pakistanis have for cricket is comparable to the passion that many in Barcelona have for football, with millions attending games and watching on TV each year.
With major national and international competitions like the Cricket World Cup, the Indian Premier League, and the Ashes, cricket is one of the most-watched sports in the world. As with many popular disciplines, it's also common for fans to bet on games and futures markets, especially in countries like the UK where sports betting is big business. To help reach more fans, cricket teams, TV broadcasts, and grounds are often sponsored by betting brands, most of whom use this as an opportunity to promote their free bet promotions.
While cricket in Barcelona doesn't quite garner as much sports betting attention as football, this new grassroots initiative could help the sport grow in popularity.
A Surprise Win in Barcelona
The campaign to promote cricket and have a new cricket ground built was spearheaded by a group of young women. One of these, Hifsa Butt, has a strong cricketing heritage with her father being an accomplished cricketer. He has been volunteering his time to help train these aspiring female cricketers, but up until now, play has been limited to indoor games.
Like with other indoor variants of predominantly outdoor sports, such as football, indoor cricket uses tennis balls instead of a traditional hard ball and teams are smaller than the full 11-member teams seen in outdoor games.
The team had been playing at the Montjuïc baseball ground, but they can’t use the facilities during baseball season.
They, therefore, had to find a space of their own. This is no easy task though. A full-sized cricket pitch requires 16,000 metres of flat surface, and there are few places like this in Barcelona.
Then along came a local governmental initiative. The city’s officials pulled together a €30 million fund that would be earmarked for facilities to promote sport and active travel. They then asked residents to vote on where this money should be spent, with 822 proposals being made.
The new €1.2 million cricket ground, which would be made by converting the Julià de Capmany dirt field on Montjuïc, was the proposal that received the most votes, causing quite a lot of surprise among city officials.
Hopes for the Future
Spain is certainly not devoid of cricket. The Catalan Cricket Federation has more than 20 teams and 700 players on its books, while the cities of Madrid, Valencia, and Alicante and the island of Minorca all have strong cricket teams.
However, these are all made up of predominantly foreign players. For example, the players of the Minorca team are almost all from England, while Badalona’s cricket club is made of predominantly Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals.
Many who have a passion for the sport are hoping that the creation of a new cricket ground in the city will help to inspire more Spaniards to take up playing.
Europe is Falling in (Back) Love With Cricket
This hope is founded in the fact that many other European nations are seeing a revival of cricket. Many English expatriates introduced cricket in the 19th and 20th centuries and some big clubs in European football like A.C. Milan were founded as cricket clubs, though eventually, the beautiful game became the dominant sport.
Since 2000, the European Cricket Championship has seen 30 of the continent’s nations compete in T20 matches. Meanwhile, the European Cricket League is a club competition that uses a 10 overs format. The inaugural season was hosted at the La Manga Club in Cartagena, Spain in 2019 though the 2020 edition has been delayed until 2022.
The shorter formats like T20 are helping to engage more Europeans in the sport. Initiatives like the one to create a new cricket ground in Barcelona will also help to make it more accessible to locals who may not be able to play it otherwise.