Club Cricket Conference

Thursday, 26th May 2022

Little and Large – Good or Bad?

16 November 2021

Dorset-based Bournemouth is one of the biggest clubs on the south coast, theyre also one of the few clubs to play their league cricket in a neighbouring county.

Playing in the Southern Premier Cricket League – a league they’ve won three times in 1984, 1996 and 2010 – Bournemouth have weathered the worst of the pandemic storm, making the most of the grants on offer by the ECB and also receiving a couple of donations from vice-presidents to ease their passage. They have, by and large, emerged from an unprecedented period of upheaval in good health.  


They’re also doing their bit to attempt to ensure the same can be said for cricket in their home county by forging the kind of partnerships that could represent the future of the club game in this country. 


Speaking to the Club Cricket Conference newsletter, Jon Clutterbuck, Bournemouth’s vice chairman and first team manager, said that the club were unlikely to be back playing in the Dorset Cricket League anytime soon. Despite the county recently applying for Premier League status. 


He did, though, outline the work the club was doing locally to ensure both the long-term success of the club itself, and also the clubs in its immediate locality.  


“You don’t want a whole load of promising lads log-jammed in the third or fourth team,” he says.  


“Its much better for us if they go out and get experience. You do get a lot of disappointed young lads who think they’re going to walk straight into a top division side, but it doesn’t happen like that. 


“Broadstone are a (Dorset) Premier League club, we have an agreement with them – and they’re a club have who have had a number of promising youngsters coming through.  


“They know that they can link with us rather than coming to us too soon. We set that up last year with the outgoing Dorset development officer, but it’s something we’ll be looking to do with other Dorset clubs as well, I think.”  


It’s a pragmatic approach and one which works for Bournemouth and Broadstone. It’s also one that should have a positive impact on the Dorset’s prospects of remaining competitive in the National Counties league too. 


“We’re more entwined with Dorset cricket than Lymington and Bashley, we try and work with clubs (in Dorset) as much as possible, but we don’t actively go and recruit from the county,” he says. “We understand that some cricketers will want to move on, but we’ll only do that once they’ve achieved something – if they’re scoring runs at a reasonable level or taking wickets at that level too. 


“We do try and work with the Dorset clubs.”  


Bournemouth currently run six teams on a Saturday and, alongside the likes of Bashley and Lymington, remain a magnet for young talent looking to cross the border from Dorset to Hampshire. 


They’re hardly short of role models either, with Tom Prest and Felix Organ – both of whom are Dorset boys - breaking into the Hampshire first team in recent seasons.  


The club’s 65-acre site is part of a huge complex which is now owned by Bournemouth University. Clutterbuck admits that there are frustrations working within the current model, but the club’s membership continues to grow, particularly at youth level. 


“We did some outreach work with All Stars and Dynamo’s this summer,” says Clutterbuck. “We were in an area of Bournemouth called King’s Park, where there is still a recreational cricket facility, which isn’t used very much, but has a lovely old Victorian pavilion. We’ve had an influx of 90 under-9s as a result and we’re very good at making sure there’s some kind of continuity in terms of winter training. 


“We’ve got a lot coming through, which is great to see. Adult membership has held up, although we could drop the number of Saturday sides from six to five next year because we’ve got an inkling that so many people are going to be heading off on holiday when the summer comes around. If we do have an excess, then the arrangement we have with Broadstone means we can push players there if we need to.”  


While Bournemouth remain one of the biggest clubs in two counties, there are plenty of smaller clubs struggling to make ends meet. At the top end of the scale, Clutterbuck believes that the bigger clubs will have to professionalise, in terms of attitude and approach, in the likelihood that the big clubs will only increase in size in the near and long-term future. 


“I think expectation levels are rising, I think people are demanding a more professional approach from clubs likes ours,” he says. “No-one wants to change in a wooden hut, these days. People have different expectations from what they want from their sport. 


“I think we’ll see a consolidation of club cricket in this country because to be a decent sized club you really need two pitches now. It’s very hard to hire recreational facilities at third and fourth team level. I think every club struggles to fill its last team, whether you have two teams or six. That’s just the nature of things.”