Club Cricket Conference

Thursday, 26th May 2022

A View from Cornwall

By Richard Edwards

8th April 2022

Geographically speaking, Cornwall finds itself out a limb but when it comes to cricket, Truro chairman, Ian Jones, tells the Club Cricket Conference that the county is in the same boat as a lot of others as we move into the 2022 season. 

Traditionally one of Cornwall’s best known and most successful clubs, Truro face many of the issues concerning others up and down the country – not least maintaining volunteering levels and ensuring that they’re capable of running the requisite number of teams when Saturday rolls around. 

This year, for example, the club – who finished runners-up to well-financed Penzance in the Cornish Premier League in 2021 – debated whether running four league teams was still a viable option. The eventual decision was a resounding yes, but ensuring that four sides make it onto the pitch every weekend this season might be easier said than done. 

For Jones - who combines his role as chairman with additional responsibilities as a groundsman, while also running a busyvolunteering charity which is currently fully occupied with the influx of refugees from war-torn Ukraine – ensuring that Truro continues to thrive isn’t just a job, but a passion. 

And with the club’s first friendly taking place this weekend, the annual sense of excitement is building. Despite the obviousheadaches facing the club game at the current time, not least the ongoing battle to get children involved with the sport. 

“If you can’t look forward to the season at this time of year then when can you?” he says.  

“Truro is the capital of Cornwall, it’s a city but we struggle for funding. We have four men’s teams, a women’s team and three youth teams. The struggle we have is to keep players engaged and to raise funds.  

“Sometimes that can be a massive problem. The problem we’ve got in many respects is that cricket no longer really exists in state schools and when it came off terrestrial television then it disappeared from a lot of people’s consciousness. I don’t think we’ve ever really recovered from that. 

“There are so many other distractions now – an hour is long enough for some youngsters, let alone an afternoon. It is a difficult task.

What we see is that if we offer something that the parents like and they want to get involved then that’s the best way to attract and keep youngsters at the club.

As I say, though, the key is to then keep them engaged when they get to secondary school.”  

Further down the line, of course, one of the key challenges facing clubs is then ensuring that there’s a pathway available from junior to senior cricket. Which brings the importance of club’s fourth, fifth and sometimes sixth teams, sharply into focus.
 

“We need our fourth team because it allows our younger county age group cricketers to play competitive men’s cricket on a Saturday,” says Jones. “We need that base because it gives those really good young players a base to play competitively in a senior league. If we lost it when we simply wouldn’t be able to do that.  

“The next league up - and our third team is in Division Four – it gets too competitive then. The fact is that there are dwindling number of teams in Cornwall now running four sides. And I think that’s a situation that is far from unique to Cornwall.“ 

Truro will play host to a friendly between Somerset and Cornwall in the run-up to the domestic 50 over cup competition, which begins in early July. Last year, of course, the county made headlines - albeit briefly - when they beat the same opponents.  

That fixture - which Jones hopes will attract multiple hundreds through the gates - will provide a boost to a county during uncertain times for the recreational game. 

“I don’t think it’s just Cornwall that has its struggles,” says Jones. “We’ve got the Premier League, Division One, which is across the county, and then the leagues go East and West before you get to Division Six, which includes a central league as well to cut down on travelling.  

“There’s still a significant amount of cricket being played in the county but it has vastly reduced. Speaking to some of the older members, they will tell you that 20 years ago there would be large numbers of spectators coming to matches, now it’s just a few family members. 

“You don’t see the volume of people attending. Somerset coming down will get more people engaged for that brief period of time but it’s a constant battle.”  

It’s an issue, he says, which isn’t helped by the governing body.
 
“I don’t think the ECB really understand community cricket,” he says. “We had a 50 over game in the then CB40 competition in Truro in 2013. We had an ex-cricketer who was the ECB umpire down and, a short time after, we had a letter informing us that if the Netherlands had returned to Truro the following year, they would have had points deducted because the pitchtook spin too early. 

“I wrote back questioning that assertion because neither team was bowled out, an ex-England spinner didn’t take a wicket and there were a couple of centuries scored. I got no response. There’s no understanding of the impact a letter like that can have on a club like ours – we don’t pay groundsmen, we’re all volunteers. That letter just said it all for me.
 

“We get less and less money from the ECB every year and we don’t see very much in return. The money we had for being part of the Premier League has gone down and down and the costs to keep the club going have gone in the opposite direction.”