By Charles Randall
19 December 2019
The new year should bring more certainty for club cricket when talks resume between the National Cricket Conference and the England and Wales Cricket Board in February.
The recent Club Cricket Conference Annual Lunch at Lord's arrived at a time of "fundamental significance" according to one of the organisation's leading officials. Simon Prodger, a CCC Board member and managing director of the National Cricket Conference, said that several new projects would be discussed with the ECB in a difficult era for the recreational game.
Judging by the fellowship and optimism at another successful CCC event in the Nursery Pavilion, raising in excess of £20,000 towards running costs, club cricket remained in fine shape. The three winners of the annual spin scholarships were announced – Alex Moor (Bracebridge Heath CC), Zen Malik (West Bromwich Dartmouth CC) and Nav Dwivedi (Wanstead & Snaresbrook CC).
But Prodger warned of challenges that lay ahead. He said: “financing the work that the National Cricket Conference and CCC do is not easy against the backdrop of a decreasing number of clubs, higher costs of club maintenance, stagnant participation numbers, and apparently increasing affiliation and compliance expectations."
Prodger said the NCC and CCC had offered to assist the ECB and their County Boards through a number of important initiatives, which included a disputes arbitration service, and enhancing opportunities for non-affiliated clubs and leagues outside the mainstream. He affirmed that the CCC and NCC were working to ensure club cricket remained sustainable within its multitude of communities, across all forms, all cultures, and all competitive levels of the amateur game.
"We are a voice for the clubs and communities of this land,” Prodger said, “and we can independently represent their issues to the ECB, its stake-holders and to Parliamentarians. We engage with those traditionally more hard-to-reach cricketing environments, as highlighted by the creation of the National Asian Cricket Council, the African-Caribbean Cricket Association, and the Wandering Cricket Association.” In addition practical support from the CCC is given via the fixture and ground services and the advisory service, available to all.
Prodger added: "Our hope is that within an agreed new partnership with ECB, we will develop upon this base by providing further support that is utterly complimentary to County Boards, such as an independent appeals panel of final arbitration of disciplinary cases that require referral; to provide increased opportunities for disability and diverse community workforces, coaches and officials; nurture clubs and leagues that are not affiliated as yet to the ECB or County Boards; develop processes that enable non asset-owning clubs to find grounds and facilities that are safe and well maintained whilst all the while, maintaining the broad general support and opportunities that over the past 104 years, we have become synonymous with."
Prodger said that the National Asian Cricket Council were now acknowledged as the ECB’s primary advisors on its South Asian strategy involving numerous projects in the on-going integration of cricketing cultures. And he reminded the audience that the Club Cricket Charity had distributed in excess of 160 defibrillators to clubs across the country.
The charity, he said, was committing to help fund the launch of Character Through Cricket, a project in schools and their local clubs to promote character-building through the coaching and playing of cricket.
Prodger added: " It is not compulsory for any club to be a member of NCC or CCC, but we aim to support the club game in the broadest possible sense and with an empathy and sincerity that can only be provided by people that are on the front line of club and league life up and down the country."
Another aspect of the CCC has been fielding of representative sides through each summer. These include the relatively new addition of women's matches, with Saba Nasim becoming the first woman to be awarded a CCC cap by playing 25 games.
Prodger said: "Many of our representative matches each season are against County 2nd XI sides and I extend our thanks and appreciation to those counties for their willingness to help us advance young talent from the club game. Many, like Essex, Kent, Hampshire and Middlesex, pay us the compliment of putting out strong sides, littered with contracted players, so when we do sneak the odd victory - as against Hampshire last May - there is a sense of quiet satisfaction, humbly managed, I hope."
The names of the spin scholarship winners were announced to loud applause. Judging took place at Edgbaston Indoor Cricket Centre last September, where Min Patel, the former England left-armer, and Mo Bobat, ECB national performance director – supported by Jigar Naik, ex Leicestershire, and Simon Jackson, MCC young Cricketers assistant coach - ran the rule over 30 hopefuls. The prize for the three winners was a week at the Global Cricket School in Mumbai in March or April.
Bexley CC were congratulated for their success in The Conference Cup for the Bertie Joel Trophy, defeating Cambridge CC in the final at Blackheath CC. (report here on our website)
The last word at the lunch, a keynote, went to Prodger. “As I look round this room now,” he said, “I am filled with pride by what is reflected back from your tables. Amongst us we have players past and present, who have represented their clubs and CCC with distinction - and in some instances a county or two as well. We have administrators that have dedicated decades of their lives to their beloved clubs and leagues, selflessly supporting the recreational game for the benefit of very many others.
“We have volunteers, scorers, umpires, caterers, groundsmen, club presidents and chairmen, ECB, County Board, MCC and first class county executives. We have the very fabric of our incredible, beautiful game right here in this room. It is humbling and inspiring to be among you all, for we share, I believe, one cause - to sustain a healthy club game that fosters future generations of cricketers, provides sporting opportunities for all abilities and all people regardless of our culture, race, gender or social standing and enables life memories, friendships and good character to prosper.”