Mark Surridge believes Halstead Cricket Club find themselves ‘at a crossroads’ with a worrying decline in playing membership nationally juxtaposed with continuing improvements to their impressive facilities.
The Star Stile club’s chairman detailed his assessment of where things lie at their annual meeting.
“In some ways we’re in a strong position with wonderful facilities, backed up by a hard working committee and groundstaff,” he reported. “But in other ways things are less promising, particularly with a worrying decline in playing membership.
“We have a solid platform on which we can build our future, being in a fortunate financial position being in receipt of generous bequests from past members, particularly the ‘Mitch’ Mitchell legacy, from which an application for planning permission has been sought for a new score box in his memory.
“But on the playing side things are less secure. At Halstead we’re not alone in experiencing declining interest and nationwide cricket has diminishing numbers playing the game. Notice the current Ashes Series in Australia has had no terrestrial television coverage and so a game that is firmly embedded in the country’s DNA is disappearing from our screens.
“We, too, have been adversely affected by declining playing membership and have been forced to cancel matches through our inability to raise three sides on some Saturdays last summer. Hence the implementation of a cricket committee to examine ways of arresting the decline in participation.”
He said the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) had found in a nationwide survey fewer and fewer children list cricket as their ‘favourite sport’, with synchronised swimming apparently having more support.
Surridge is, however, hopeful about the future.
“We are arresting the decline at Halstead, and hoping that those who are introduced to the game as children will continue to play through their teenage years and on into adult cricket,” his report to members said.
“The Halstead Junior section is in a very strong position with a growing membership and excellent attendances at their Friday training nights.
“More than 80 children are now registered from ages 6-15 and enjoy weekly practice with both soft ball Kwik Cricket and hard ball cricket in the three bays of Astro-turf nets. Three under-nine teams represented the club last summer in Kwik Cricket and there are also now both under-11 and under-12 teams who are transitioning from soft ball to hard ball cricket.”
He said the club is putting through more Level 2 coaches to meet the rising demand for structured coaching every Friday night at Star Stile and are hosting more junior Kwik Cricket fixtures.
Surridge also helped to launch an outreach programme at the club last May and June.
He added: “Our club coaches visited local primary schools to help structure their soft ball Kwik Cricket sessions, and children were so taken by the game they came in numbers to join our juniors. Now plans are being drawn up to visit the Ramsey Academy next summer to help promote the game to older children.”