Bury St Edmunds Cricket Club chairman remaining positive despite coronavirus uncertainty
Bury St Edmunds CC chairman Paul Whittaker has no plans to scrap deals to bring two overseas players to the Victory Ground this summer – despite the cloud of uncertainty hanging over their 2020 campaign.
Fellow local East Anglian Premier League clubs Mildenhall and Sudbury are among those who have announced they have pulled out of deals for financial reasons amid the likely impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their income.
But despite not knowing when their season, which should have got started at Horsford tomorrow, will be able to get going, Whittaker is expecting to see Justin Broad back at the club, along with fellow South African Chris Benjamin.
“We are in touch with the agents and as soon as we are ready to go they will come back,” he said.
It will be welcome news to followers of Bury with Broad having made a big impact in his first campaign at the club,topping the club’s run charts as an 18-year-old with 936 at an average of 55.06 in 2019.
He helped to steer them to an eighth-placed finish following several seasons of dangerously flirting with relegation.
It appears the financial cost of bringing him back alongside wicketkeeper Benjamin is being made possible by both already having contracts to play in the country with clubs that have first-class status.
Broad won a place in the famed MCC Young Cricketers programme that the likes of Ian Botham, Phil Tufnell, Mark Waugh and Ross Taylor all came through.
Benjamin, 20, is part of the Durham MCCU set-up and played for Bury’s divisional rivals Cambridge in 2018, having moved from Titans Academy in Victoria before representing Essex II and Durham MCCU last year.
Due to the impact of the deadly virus, the England & Wales Cricket Board have suspended the professional game until May 28 and the recreational game indefinitely.
It was meant to be a big season of celebration at Bury as its Victory Ground home celebrates its centenary year.
But Whittaker is hopeful they will be able to rejoice with thePCA England Masters taking on Bury, which could be moved back from its August 21 date if needed to.
Speaking about the lockdown’s financial impact on the club, he said: “I am not worried about us coming out of the other side. We will be ok.
“We have lost the income we would have had from the hire of the facility and the bar income. And with the action we have taken we have tried to reduce our overheads as much as we can and there is help out there, such as the council has agreed not to charge rent.
“We will be fine but it is not a great situation to be in and I am worried for some clubs with less financial capabilities that it could be the last straw.”
The ground is still being maintained by groundsman Mark Flack working in isolation.
Whittaker said they have offered the clubhouse building, which includes a sports hall shared with South Lee School, to the NHS, should it be needed for training or out-patient services.
More by this authorRussell Claydon