Walkden Cricket Club

Cricket clubs from around Salford say the current Coronavirus lockdown poses significant difficulties and even threatens the survival of some.

Since the government ordered businesses to close and people to limit contact with other people, cricket administrators have moved to effectively postpone the 2020 season.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has announced a range of financial support and describes the pandemic as “the biggest challenge the ECB has faced in the history of the game, the modern era anyway and certainly in the ECB’s history”.

But Summer months without income from cricket, venue hire and other special events will leave a black hole in clubs’ finances, with utility bills to pay, wage obligations to meet and money tied up in stock.

With seemingly little prospect of cricket before August at the earliest, some cricket clubs in Salford may be facing an existential crisis.

“It’s not great, to be honest”

“I’ve played cricket since I was six. My Dad played there and he still comes to the club. My lad’s the same. I still play a little bit, but not too much as the knees are on the way out.

Ian Morris has played cricket at Clifton Cricket Club for over 40 years and has never known anything like the shutdown of cricket across the country.

Now chairman at Clifton CC, he says the future for cricket clubs seems unclear when the country emerges from lockdown.

“If I’m honest it’s very hard to know where we will be but we’re certainly not going to be in as strong a position as we were before we shut.

“We’ll do what we need to do but financially I don’t think anyone knows where we’re going to be and I don’t think anyone knows when it’s going to end. It’s difficult to make any plans.

Clifton Cricket Club

Ian says the club’s finances will take a hit with little prospect of income and overheads continuing to go out.

“We have insurance and bills to pay and we have no income coming in. We have beer in the cellar that’s going to go off.

“We’re going to lose 50% if not more of our membership income.

With three senior teams and five junior teams, looking after the club’s pitches is a demanding job.

“We’ve still got to maintain the ground and be ready for playing cricket – you can’t leave it.

“The groundsman still has to do his work. We have to keep preparing wickets.

“It’s not great, to be honest.”

Ian has filed a grant application for emergency funds from England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), while Clifton raises a little money from its membership, but says it is only when lockdown is lifted that cricket clubs might see a way forward.

“We have a monthly draw that brings a little bit in. We try to keep in touch through social media and we have a newsletter that allows us to keep in touch with the membership while all this is going on.

“We have a plan to get the [short format] T20 competition done. That’s the one that will bring people in and we bring in some money behind the bar.

It’s not just off-the-pitch where plans are threatened however. Clifton CC had signed former Lancashire CC wicketkeeper Gareth Cross for 2020 but with the upcoming season scrapped can only hope to contract him for 2021.

As for cricket during the coronavirus pandemic, Ian can only look on the bright side.

“The one good thing for us is that we’ve recently had some building work done, which will mean there’s a new beginning to the club.

“There’s always good comes out of bad”

“I’ve been president at Walkden 25 years as my father was before me for 18 years. I played cricket for 42 years. My son played cricket. I’d no option but to play for Walkden because I came for Walkden. My father said ‘You’ll play for Walkden’, so I played for Walkden!”

Frank Hinks, Walkden Cricket Club President and Treasurer, is phlegmatic about lockdown.

“There’s nobody more sporting than I am, but right now there are bigger priorities than sport.”

“I think you just have to take it on the chin.

Frank, who has been Treasurer at the club for 54 years and is also the Bolton Cricket League President, says Walkden is not in any financial trouble but other clubs in the Bolton League may struggle to continue beyond the Coronavirus.

“I do think some clubs will close. We have two divisions in the league and I think some of our second-division clubs will struggle.

“From a league perspective we’ll do everything we can conceivably do to help. We’ve deferred all payments that we can defer.

Walkden Cricket Club

However Frank is sceptical of the ECB interest-free loan scheme for clubs around the country.

“I think the ECB loan scheme is very poor. They give with one hand and they take away with the other.

“In particular the ECB looks after the southern clubs – there’s a north-south divide and always has been.”

However he sees the lockdown as a potential opportunity.

“There’s always good comes out of bad. It might kill off a few clubs that need killing off.

“It might make some of the more powerful look at themselves and wonder what they’re not doing right.

“There’s room for all of us to improve.”

“It’s all gone by the wayside”

Damian Grundy has played at Winton Cricket Club, where he is Treasurer and Child Welfare Officer, for over 20 years.

He says that without some inventive fundraising over the last couple of seasons, his cricket club would be facing disaster.

“We’ve always put some money aside but I don’t think without the money from the fundraising we’d’ve been able to keep going,” he says.

“We have a committed group of lads and we’ve had a fresh impetus over the years and have benefited from some very good grants, from the likes of Salford CVS.

“We’ve done a lot of fundraising and over the last 12 months have been in the process of another round of fundraising for a new clubhouse.

Winton Cricket Club

Damian says money earmarked for renovation and replacement projects will tide the club over for now, but without regular income finances will take a significant hit.

“Fortuitously we do have some cash that’s keeping us ticking over, but it’s going away at a rate of knots.

“The bar is our main source of income but obviously we can’t use that now. It’s going to set us back a bit and we’ll only know how long when all this is over.

“We don’t have any wealthy benefactors but while we do have a good fundraising team a lot of players are furloughed at the moment so the last thing we want to be doing is asking members for more money.

“Commitments such as heating and regular bills keep coming in – we’re cutting back as much as we can but it’s going to be hard times.

Winton CC had recently committed money to a new net facility to help the three senior mens’ teams, four junior teams and recently-launched women’s team to train. But lockdown means the brand new facility has gone unused.

“We hoped the net facility would attract some new players and some more juniors but as it is nobody has touched it this year.

“We recruited two or three lads over the Winter, which doesn’t often happen, and obviously it takes the wind out of our sails if we don’t get them playing quite soon.”

However he does see how lockdown might result in some positives for the game.

“We’re hoping that because cricket is a large outdoor sport it’s one of the first things that is allowed to start up again.

“It may give people a renewed appreciation for getting outside and watching some sport.”

• Main image: Walkden Cricket Clubs ground work during lockdown. Other images from Geograph.com

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