Cricket club goes vegan to be more inclusive


You may have heard of Forest Green Rovers, a vegan football club which has made newspaper headlines all over the country for serving delicious, nutritious plant-based meals to football fans – a largely non-vegan audience.

Now, a cricket club has turned vegan to be more inclusive of dietary and lifestyle requirements – and players are complaining of resuming matches with ‘stomachs full of delicious food’. More sports and leisure clubs have been including vegan food options, a great sign for a promising future as well as an exciting market for natural and organic vegan businesses.

Earley Cricket Club in Reading is the world’s first cricket club to serve a fully plant-based menu after its chairman went vegan and found that match teas weren’t suitable for a lot of people. Four of its players have adopted vegan lifestyles outside the club, inspired by the chairman’s transformation and realizing that vegan living is easier than ever.

The club is now offering healthy home-made vegan food as a standard option to promote inclusivity, sustainability and healthy eating, as well as compassion towards animals. Chairman Gary Shacklady is the club’s unofficial chef – he makes the huge amounts of vegan food for match teas all by himself in his own kitchen. “With a fully vegan match tea, we can cater for all dietary and lifestyle requirements,” he says.

“The teas have been well received as our players understand and support the reasoning behind the decision. Many of them do not follow a vegan lifestyle away from the club but are increasingly aware of the issues around meat, dairy and egg consumption, and have made efforts to reduce it.

“Visiting teams have praised our teas and the plates tell the full story – each week they are piled up high, then emptied very quickly. The only complaints are about the need to resume a cricket match with a stomach full of delicious vegan food!”

Food served at cricket matches usually includes sandwiches with meat fillings, with a fish, cheese or egg alternative option, and the snacks are often cocktail sausages, sausage rolls and mini scotch eggs. Vegan options tend to be limited to a bag of ready salted crisps and some fruit.

This is a real opportunity for businesses that produce vegan food to enter the sports and leisure market and prove to the general public that vegan food can be convenient, tasty and satisfying

This is a real opportunity for businesses that produce vegan food to enter the sports and leisure market and prove to the general public that vegan food can be convenient, tasty and satisfying.

The world’s number one batsman and India captain Virat Kohli is vegan, as are Australian international cricketers Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa and Peter Siddle. Sportsmen like these can help to break the old, tired stereotypes of vegans and help people associate this lifestyle choice with health, fitness and wellbeing.

Players and visitors at Earley Cricket Club can enjoy a wide range of vegan home-made meals, such as curries, pizzas, stir-fries, spaghetti Bolognese, tortilla wraps and good old sausage and mash with veg and gravy. The club serves a varied menu with cuisines from every corner of the world including Britain, China, India, Italy, Thailand and Morocco, as well as a selection of fruit and biscuits.

The club’s next battle is with the world organizers of cricket to allow them to change the cricket ball from a leather one, and they are currently trialling synthetic leather balls. The team has tested some balls, however none of them are up to standard so far – it’s very important in cricket for the material to behave in exactly the same way as animal leather and to be durable.

Shacklady is on the lookout for vegan-friendly leather balls, with not much success so far. The main manufacturers are interested in the idea and keen to listen to ideas and technologies in alternative ‘leathers’, for example pineapple and mushroom leathers.

It has not been easy to find a synthetic product which replicates the behaviour of the hide on the ball. The polyurethane balls the club has used in training are good but a long way from being league standard.

A vegan cricket ball would be a game-changer in the cricket industry, with a potential to revolutionize cricket all over the world. Can your company help to make this happen?