For many local sports clubs in Salford, the affects of COVID-19 have massively impacted the way they have been able to function during this unprecedented time. From professional teams right down to grassroots, we have seen just how detrimental a three-month lockdown has been to the finances and general operation of a number of clubs not just in Salford, but across the country. 2019’s Bolton Cricket League Premiership and Hamer Cup champions, Walkden Cricket Club, have been preparing themselves for the return of cricket – but not as they knew it.
Founded in 1899, the club competes in the 1st Premiership of the Bolton Cricket League, one of its founding members in 1930. Walkden Cricket Club are one of the most successful teams in the league with 13 championships to date, 2019 there most recent success.
With the resume of cricket on the horizon, Walkden have been preparing themselves for the ‘new norm’. 26-year-old Nathan Rushton, from Walkden, coaches the juniors at the club and has been taking the necessary steps along with his colleagues to make the reopening of Walkden Cricket Club as safe and as smooth as possible.
What is your connection with Walkden Cricket Club?
My connection with the club dates back a while. I was a player here during my junior days and now I coordinate the juniors, a role I have been in for two years now.
With junior cricket back up and running from the 19th onwards, how have you been preparing for this?
Juniors had their first session last Friday which was a huge success. 24 juniors took part and the sessions will be continuing from now until the end of July for any new players. The preparation has been careful and inline with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) guidelines. We started with 1-2-1 coaching and now it’s group sessions of 1-5.
Great to see 24 of our juniors back on the field for Friday Night Practice following all the guidelines to keep them save. Thanks to @nathanrushton & the coaching team for a well organised & enjoyable evening for all @WalkdenC @CLHCIO @WhatsonWorsley @SalfordNow @NeilBonnarBN pic.twitter.com/W5BBPYBx39
— Walkden Cricket Club (@WalkdenOfficial) July 10, 2020
How have the parents of the children involved in junior level responded to the return of cricket?
It has been good, we have developed our communication with our parents with up-to-date WhatsApp group and weekly emails. This was something we needed to improve on.
The club has recently reopened for members, what changes have you had to make to allow that to happen?
Again we have been careful and made sure we are inline with government guidelines to make sure we protect our members and staff. We have spaced out tables put in, rules for TV volumes and so on. We have made a real effort to deep clean the whole club through an outside company.
What has the response been to these changes from the members?
Really positive, the feedback has been great. They are understanding and know that it is the only way we can keep our doors open.
Great to see everyone yesterday. Shame about the weather but everyone had enough space to be able to socially distance. Thank you for following the rules, they are necessary, and everyone used common sense.
We hope you all enjoyed it.
— Walkden Cricket Club (@WalkdenOfficial) July 5, 2020
Do you think there has been enough support from the government for clubs like yourself?
Yes to a point. There have been grants and loans that we have looked into, but some of the guidelines are very vague.
Have Walkden benefited from any of the financial schemes the ECB have recently introduced to help smaller clubs?
We are very fortunate that we are financially secure. We have lots of events and room hires throughout the year that enable us to make good profits.
How has the loss of members to other sports such as golf affected the club?
I think some junior and senior players have started taking up other sports such as golf as you were able to play golf sooner than cricket. It’s one of those things, we just hope that they come back to us. We are always looking to recruit both junior and senior players.
Are there any specific plans for the future?
We are just taking it one step at a time, working with the ECB, Lancashire Cricket and the government. Once anything changes, we will change the way we operate both on and off the field. We have good people in management places that will make the right decisions at the right time.