Club Cricket Conference

Tuesday, 30th November 2021

Mike Gatting praises new togetherness

By Charles Randall

22 November 10:58

THE England and Wales Cricket Board have added their encouragement to the recent initiative that could forge closer links between clubs up and down the country.

Former England captain Mike Gatting, the ECB managing director of cricket partnerships -- including the club sector -- said at Lord's today that the process was great for club cricket, and Paul Bedford, in charge of ECB non first class operations, emphasised the importance of a united presence, something that has never yet been achieved.

On November 16 the CCC, who represent more than 1,000 clubs in the southern half of England, met delegates from the north-based League Cricket Conference and the Midlands Club Cricket Conference in Birmingham to discuss the possibilities of greater co-operation.

Today Gatting, a former player with the north London club Brondesbury CC, followed up the Birmingham initiative with his support at the CCC annual lunch in the Nursery Pavilion, a successful function that attracted more than 500 people. "The thing about the Club Cricket Conference is that when I started playing in the 1970s that was the only book that was around if you wanted to play cricket," he said.

"It's great to see that the CCC could become a force along with the Midland and League Cricket Conference too. The ECB can't do everything unfortunately, and you've got three bodies here who hopefully will work together and actually help club cricket throughout the country."

Bedford, the ECB official closest to the club scene, said afterwards that there were many advantages of unity if it could be achieved. These included self-help, insurance concessions, one-stop affiliation fees and, most importantly, access to a huge reserve of voluntary support.

Though the three conferences point out that nothing has been agreed and that 'unification' might be a long way down the road, the Birmingham discussions will be seen in some quarters as the first step towards the creation of one organisation. The joint-statement issued went no further than agreement to explore opportunities for sharing advice, resources and information.

Alf Langley, the CCC chairman, said: "This initiative is long overdue and is a very exciting project. I hope that links with the ECB and county boards for the benefit of club cricket can be strengthened as a result."

There were many voluntary workers attending the CCC lunch, including one of the best known faces on television -- the Hampstead CC chairman Jim Carter, better known for his role as the head butler Carson in Downton Abbey. Another notable guest was Sir George Young, Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Privy Seal.

ECB officials are due to meet the fledgling club group in March to discuss further support from Lord's. Earlier this year the CCC produced a five-year plan as an initial step to further the cause of club cricket, and the new website should accelerate any unifying process if this is the path that is agreed.

Closer ties between the conferences started last year when the League and Midlands conferences were invited to nominate players for the CCC tour to Denmark. The net has been cast wider again for the trip to Oman in March 2012.

A tie-up can act as a catalyst for clubs to benefit from mutual facilities, ideas and relationships, complementing the activities of the county boards and leagues. A 'knowledge bank' is to be launched, based on the membership's collective experience to find practical solutions to problems as well as providing access to professional help where required.

An immediate problem is the rates scandal that could destroy a few clubs while already adversely affecting a large number. The website could act as a hub for mutual advice and support in tackling local councils about the huge increases reported in some cases.

The CCC would like to reach further down the scale to bring teams and clubs with little or no experience of playing on properly prepared pitches and grounds into the more mature cricket family. Wider ground-sharing is one aspect that will be investigated.

The CCC will continue their existing role of providing a fixtures bureau and giving players opportunities at high-level representative cricket, including under-21 and women.

If there is an eventual unification of clubs, any new organisation could provide a strong public voice, interceding at any level on behalf of individual clubs and membership as a whole. The website can already raise the level of debate on all relevant issues through communication and forums.