While the ECB last week issued new guidelines for cricket clubs, there appears little prospect of league cricket taking place in the North-East this summer. Nick Loughlin spoke to four clubs, one from each of the main divisions, to see how they are coping.


Stockton CC

North Yorkshire South Durham League

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At the turn of the year, we were looking forward to the season with growing optimism. A good selection of new players had joined and the promising juniors were not only a year older but had the benefit of last season’s experience of appearing in, competing in, and on occasions excelling in, senior cricket.

All the signs were that the first team would challenge for a second successive promotion and that the seconds would succeed where they narrowly missed out last season.

Ten weeks or so later, the league cancelled their pre-season meeting of clubs. Shortly afterwards in line with government advice around social distancing, the ECB suspended all forms of cricket until further notice. We now know that there will no cricket of any kind until July 1 at the very earliest.

In common with many other sports clubs we rely heavily on our bars and function room to survive so when the government announced that all cafes, pubs and restaurants must close our income stream was cut off with immediate effect.

Fearing the worst but determined to safeguard the club’s future, we returned any unopened kegs to the brewery, who to their credit agreed to replace them when we reopen. We sold off as many of the bottled products as we could and mothballed the cellar to reduce our energy costs.

Thanks to government’s job retention scheme we have managed to furlough all our staff and are hopeful that this will continue until it is safe for us to reopen. As result of some hard work by our treasurer and his helpers we have been able to access some grant funding from the local government and this week we successfully applied for a loan under the bounce back scheme.

Financially, we still face an uncertain future as undoubtedly the licensed trade post Covid-19 will be vastly different to the licensed trade that existed pre Covid-19.

Since the NYSD league had the foresight to produce a list of possible scenarios around this crisis there is a plan in place for a competitive league season, albeit without promotion and relegation, beginning in early July.

For this to happen, “R needs to be less than 1” and the ECB will need to take the lead and put procedures in place to ensure the safety of players, officials and spectators.

This could include such things as players arriving at the ground changed and ready to play as very few dressing rooms are large enough to allow the necessary social distancing. Similarly, other measures such as umpires wearing face masks, no sharing of equipment, tea taken outside if at all, spectators socially distanced around the ground and banning polishing the ball and players celebrating are all possible solutions. Factor in the markedly higher risk to BAME groups and the notion that any recreational cricket will take place this summer takes a monumental leap of faith.

More significantly perhaps, if there is no recreational cricket this summer, then there is likely to be a significant detrimental impact on player retention for the future with fringe players finding other pursuits to follow.

Mark Fletcher, President


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North East Premier League

This season was supposed to see the rebirth of Philadelphia but our hopes were well and truly put on ice when the lockdown was announced.

Since relegation from the North East Premier League in 2005 we languished in the Durham Senior League and latterly in the newly-formed Durham Cricket League - a far cry from the heady days when we were not only one of the most successful sides in the North-East, but played on the best grounds.

It's no secret the club was at a low ebb for some years, struggling on the field, and financially in real difficulties.

Six years ago, we owed more than £20,000 to the bank and members, but today are completely debt free and have money in the bank. We haven't spent any of the profits raised from five very successful beer and music festivals to meet day-to-day costs, it's gone on improving facilities which we reckon are among the very best.

And whilst it was important to get things right off the field, on the pitch we celebrated last September, defeating Seaham Park on the final day of the season to win promotion to the First Division of the Premier League.

Shaun Smith is in his eighth year as captain and was really looking forward to a new challenge.

We trained well during the winter and the lads were up for the season, only for our plans to be knocked on the head. We had signed an Indian professional, Ajav Mandal, a left-arm spinner and left-handed batsman who had enjoyed a very good season back home, as well as Anthony Watson and Dan Pearson both of whom have performed well for Seaham Park and Littletown, respectively.

Ben Raine agreed to play for us when not required by Durham County, which would have been a real bonus.

We were really up for it, looking forward to playing against new opponents and on some of the grounds we used to play on in the past.

As for what the future holds, we can only plan and hope we get in some cricket this season.

The good thing is that our groundsman has continued to work and the square and outfield are looking superb, probably the best for a number of years, so we are ready to go as soon as the green light is given.

We are optimistic for the club’s future, but concerned that some players elsewhere could call it a day and that clubs will find it difficult financially.

We don't foresee problems. In fact, we thought that we would not have sufficient players for an under-18 side but recently have been able to inform the Durham Cricket Board that we can field a team, which is great news.

The winter junior coaching by Australian Mike Fishwick has clearly paid dividends. We had agreed with Mike Hirsch, another Aussie, to be the club's coach during the season but whether he gets over now looks unlikely.

We are financially sound although we reckon our income for the period March - July will be down by more than £36,000 - this is the size of our problem. We'll ride the storm but whether some clubs can, must be a concern.

Malcolm Pratt, chairman


Ushaw Moor

Durham Cricket League

We have under-11s, 13s, 15s, first and second teams as well as all-stars and we were starting the new dynamos programme this year too.

Now all that is on hold and we don’t know anything until July 1 when the ECB will next make an announcement.

Being honest, I’ll be very surprised if we get a game of cricket this summer, and the lads have the field looking perfect. We aren’t making any money because the club is closed.

We make most money from the bar, which is a big hit for us when it’s closed.

The club is looking into grants and I know we did get the Durham County Council grants, most clubs have benefited from it and they are a big help.

There is the possibility of losing players through a lack of interest this summer. The juniors have coaches who are looking after the sides, keeping in touch and the kids want to get playing against and most seniors are as well.

You can’t use sweat or the like to shine the ball and can change the complexion of the game completely. Do you use gloves?

The county game is hit just the same as the local leagues, England are due to play Australia at Durham in July and the ECB aren’t announcing if it’s off yet.

It’s a nightmare for everyone, but as a club we are all in touch and in contact with each other.

The weather has been great and we felt in January there was no chance of starting the season on April 18 because of the of way the field looked, now the way the weather has been it’s looking like The Oval and we can’t play on it.

We lease the field from the council and we still have to pay for that and keep the machinery in order and the lads have been working on it and looking after it without much reward.

Robert Hancock, Chairman


The outfield at Burnmoor is cut 

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Annfield Plain,

Northumberland and Tyneside Senior League

We have furloughed our staff, two employees been from the off and will continue to be until we get out the pickle we are in.

I don’t know how long this will take and can clubs open before December? It’s hard to see any cricket this summer.

The Scottish Cricket Board directive is no recreational cricket this season, they have decided on it and drawn a line under it. I can’t see the ECB saying anything different from that.

As a club the aim is to survive the season, get through to the turn of the year and open up again.

The only upside is that we have a £10,000 grant from the government and employees are paid through furlough, but we still need money for bills and mortgage.

The local council have been very good with a small grant to help us out and we are awaiting word from Sport England for a grant to cover the costs.

If they come back, I can’t see a problem surviving, but it all depends on the length of this situation.

The last businesses to open will be pubs and clubs, anywhere where groups of people get together – cricket clubs, football clubs, pubs and clubs.

Having looked at it, some cricket clubs will struggle and the likelihood will be they are the bigger clubs, with facilities like bars and employees, they need ways and means to cover those costs. Smaller clubs, community cricket clubs without a bar, are without the big overheads.

We run twitter, Instagram, facebook and a club website to keep in touch with everyone through social media and we update as and when we can.

Some players want to come and practice in the nets, but that can’t happen.

As far as retaining players, everyone is in the same boat. The only way is if they decide not to play cricket any more after this. We aren’t going to lose players, for example, to Shotley Bridge for cricketing reasons, because every club is closed down.

On the other side, I’ve had some players who were ready to stop playing who want to come back and play again.

I’m out cutting the grass now, this gives me the chance to get out. Our ground is looking fantastic without being able to get out there and play. I’m up here two, three times a week and it gets me my exercise and keeps the ground tidy.

Social distancing in cricket and football is going to take a hit and it’s hard to see anything happening until next summer now.

Steve Newstead, chairman


Chester-le-Street's Ropery Lane 

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