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Cricket's summer washout
12:00pm Wednesday 26th September 2012 in Sport
AS Yorkshire continues to be plagued by downpours and deluge, STEVE CARROLL and ALEX FINNIS investigate how the wretched summer affected the area’s cricket clubs...
IT has been labelled the worst summer for a century – and cricket clubs in York and North and East Yorkshire are hoping it will be 100 years before they see another one like it.
The wettest April since records began, and rain which fell relentlessly in the months that followed, didn’t just see matches abandoned across the Hunters York & District Senior League and HPH York Vale League.
It hit clubs hardest in the pocket.
With more than a third of York & District games lost, and around 120 Vale League matches cancelled or abandoned, stalwart clubs have together lost tens of thousands of pounds in bar takings, match fees and fund-raising.
But the weather has affected every aspect of club life, with some teams also claiming the many weeks between fixtures has cost them players – with adults and juniors getting involved in new activities during the enforced break and not returning.
Chiefs in both the Senior and Vale Leagues fear that, should the heavens open in a similar vein next season, some clubs could face closure.
That is the reality facing Stillingfleet, founder members of the Vale League, whose miserable year left them with a shortfall of about £1,000 and has seen members asked to consider the possibility of folding.
Vale League bosses have sent out a survey to clubs asking them about their plans for the future, while, in the Senior League, the rain saw the biggest loss of games since records began with secretary Albert Pattison saying it has had a huge effect on junior cricket.
“At the 16th week of the season, we had lost 44 per cent of our games,” Pattison said. “I would guess we lost, in total, about 36 per cent of the matches. I think the previous worst was 27 per cent.
“Up to 12 weeks, we had 247 uncompleted matches and the first five weeks were all badly affected. There has only been about five weeks where every game was played, so there was a considerable loss.
“It caused mayhem with cup matches and we had an awful lot of bowl-outs in the League Cup. It’s had a big effect on juniors. Most of the games have been rained off week after week. They tend to bring more people to the club, you get parents and grandparents coming down (to watch). That’s another disastrous effect financially.
“It has discouraged kids who find something else to do. Clubs rely on juniors. They fill in the gaps when adults are on holidays but the youngsters have hardly played at all.”
Martin Jarred, York Vale League media officer, added: “We’ve lost in the region of 120 fixtures and that’s more than anyone can remember. It is inevitable that it will have an effect on all clubs. Players tend to pay money to play and, obviously, they are not playing.
“We decided, at a management meeting a couple of weeks ago, to carry out a survey of clubs. We were mindful of the fact that some were struggling a bit. We’ve sent a questionnaire asking them about their plans for the future.
“We started the season with a record number of clubs and a record number of divisions – six for the first time. We did have problems with some clubs dropping out during the course of the league – like University of York Staff, Drax and Huntington , who were struggling to get a team out.”
Nearly every club contacted by The Press told a similar tale – frustration at a lost season and significant financial losses.
At Goole CC, secretary David Caldicott presided over a double whammy for the Senior League outfit. Not only did they lose £8,000 in bar takings but the first team were also relegated, he believes, as a result of the weather.
“It was most difficult at the beginning of the season,” he said. “In April and May we only played one or two half-games out of eight or nine and we’ve lost around £8,000. We normally take around £1,000 a game.
“Our first team got relegated this season because of the weather. We found it really difficult just to get going.”
It was a similar story at Easingwold, where secretary John Redshaw added: “We lost ten fixtures which financially meant around £5,000 to £6,000 lost. The bar is our biggest bringer of income – we would normally take £500 to £600 there on a matchday.
“We’ve made some extra money through fundraising, doing things like a golf day and have made back about half the losses. But we are only okay because of this.”
At Sessay, secretary Keith Houlston said: “The weather has had a massive effect on us. Our first team only played 11 out of its 22 matches, which is a few fewer than most and we were relegated by a few points because of it. There’s been no-one in our club on Saturday evenings. We’re very much down financially because of it.”
Even at those clubs who are financially secure, the weather has still taken its toll.
Clifton Park-based York have resigned their fifth team from the Vale League because of a lack of players. Secretary Nick Kay believes the dearth of cricket has contributed to club members finding other things to do.
“It has had a horrible, massive effect on us,” he said. “Yes, we lose out revenue-wise but we have also lost out player-wise. We try to field five teams every week and, when you have two or three weeks where it is rained off, parents, players and juniors make other plans.
“People in the Vale League will think we have been a complete rabble this year because we have conceded six fixtures and had six rained off. We have resigned from the Vale League. It is not a case of wanting to do it but we felt we were becoming a bit of an embarrassment.”
CASE STUDY Stillingfleet Cricket Club
VALE League founder members Stillingfleet CC have told their players to consider the possibility of folding after a miserable campaign left them with a shortfall of around £1,000.
The club, started early in the 20th century and who have been in the league since it began in 1934, could also consider giving up their ground or looking to raise significant funding in order to secure their future.
Stillingfleet were only able to complete 50 per cent of their league fixtures in 2012 – either because of rain on the day of the match or because wet weather in the run up to the game made the ground unplayable.
With the club suffering slowly dwindling squad numbers, the cost of keeping going is beginning to prove extremely difficult, said club secretary and team stalwart Chris Woodfine.
“We currently pay more than £1,000 to insure players, supporters and passing third parties against injury and damage and also to insure the timber pavilion and ground maintenance machinery,” he outlined.
“The club own two wicket mowers, an outfield mower and a wicket roller that annually cost nearly £500 to fuel, service and maintain. The club must pay more than £100 annually for cricket balls and other cricket equipment, although this season the club benefited from York Vale League providing a dozen free match balls.
“Each season, the club uses in excess of £300 of grass seed, fertiliser, worm killer, dressing, loam and top soil in the preparation of their cricket wickets. The club also pay ECB affiliation and league fees of approximately £250 per annum.
“The annual cost of keeping the club on the pitch amounts to more than £2,150 before additional incidental costs.”
Woodfine added that the club used to generate at least £1,000 a year from an advertising board on the ground visible on the Stillingfleet to Naburn road but the recession had seen that figure slashed by three-quarters.
“The club’s only other source of income is the players themselves who pay match subs of £10 for an adult and £5 for a junior,” he added.
“After paying the scorer and Maureen, the league’s best tea lady, this results in an average profit of £65 for an away game and £95 for a home game.
“A full season of fixtures would generate at least £1,600 from the club’s players. However, in 2012 with rain affected fixtures, it generated only £865.
“The result of the above factors is that in the 2012 season the club had a financial shortfall of approximately £1,000, which has been personally financed by one of the players.”
A recent meeting of the squad talked about the financial problems, the player shortage and the time involved in maintaining the ground.
Woodfine said the options of folding the club, giving up the ground and becoming a nomadic team to reduce overhead costs, or raising significant new funding were now on the table with the future of the club to be decided over the next few months.
What other clubs said
ASKHAM BRYAN – Six out of 16 games called off. Secretary Mike Bains said: “Our fundraising target would normally be around £1,000 a year but we are well under half of that target.”
BISHOPTHORPE – Six games rained off. Ian Holmes, secretary, said: “Those six games saw us lose £50 to £60 a team which is £360 to £400 over the course of the year.”
COPMANTHORPE – First and second XI lost six to seven games. Secretary John Hughes said: “We have probably lost between £300 and £400. That sort of money is not easy to claw back.”
DUNNINGTON – Also in the Senior League. Secretary Gary Andrew said: “Bar takings go straight into the sports club so it doesn’t materially affect us but you can’t get any momentum going.”
FULFORDGATE – Four home games lost. Alan Baldock, secretary, said: “We get our money from match fees and, if we don’t play, we don’t get any money in. We just about coped.”
HIRST COURTNEY – Secretary Anthony Hinch said: “We will have made a financial loss this year, simply because we haven’t had the turnover with the teas and raffles that we run and the game fees that come from the lads that play.”
MELBOURNE – Five matches out of 20 called off and one abandoned. Nick Boyd, secretary, said: “We don’t really think we have lost out financially.”
NORTH DUFFIELD – Chairman John Patrick said: “Financially, it affects us badly. We only actually lost two games, which is our teas money, but when we lose away games it is the match fees we lose as well. It’s between £500 and £600 in total.”
OVINGTON – First XI lost nine fixtures. Alan Fletcher, secretary, said: “We are more than £1,000 down. We’ve worked on a system for a number of years where we pay match fees. If we don’t play, we don’t get any money.”
WOODHOUSE GRANGE – Also in the Senior League. Eight games abandoned for the first XI. Secretary David Farmer said: “If you lose a third of your games, you lose a third of your bar income as well. We were fortunate that we had a few big games towards the end of the season.”
DRAX – Lost ten fixtures out of 22. Keith Powell, secretary, said: “It cost us about £60 a fixture. We paid £7,000 for a new drainage system three years ago and it hasn’t coped. The sheer amount of water made a dip in the outfield which needs rectifying. It’s going to cost around £1,200.”
LONDESBOROUGH PARK – Peter Milne, secretary, said: “The groundsmen and others are having to put twice as much work on the ground and we’ve lost £1,000 to £2,000 of income.”
OSBALDWICK – Lost nine games. David Rippon, secretary, said: “It cost the club around £900 in total. The land drainage couldn’t cope with the amount of water. You couldn’t see the grass.”
SHERIFF HUTTON BRIDGE – Colin Mole, secretary, said: “Players got used to not playing and found other things to do. We lost four or five players. We couldn’t afford to have another season like this.”
THIRSK – Secretary Philip Robshaw said: “We lost a lot of away games and two or three of our home games. We lost money from unused teas.”