A SENIOR cricketer says every effort must be made to get the grassroots game back on its feet next year after a summer of disruption caused by the pandemic.
Some clubs opted to run with reduced teams while others, Maltby among them, decided not to play at all after the virus put back the start of play until July in leagues across the country.
Aston Hall CC salvaged some satisfaction by winning all their ten league games in the South Yorkshire Senior League before losing their Championship play-off final but its most senior first team player, Rob Ward, says the difficulties for clubs are far from over.
As well as reduced income from their bars squeezing budgets, retaining players at a time when numbers in general have been decreasing anyway is another challenge.
For Ward, keeping existing players involved should be as big a focus for the ECB as attracting new ones.
“We went down from three teams to two this year purely because we weren't sure what was going to happen with the virus,” said Rob. “We gave the lads the option to play or not and four or five who said they weren't bothered this year.
“Hopefully we can go back to three teams next year but when they have had a summer off, you never know about the future.
“It's good that the ECB are pushing women's and BAME cricket, but we have to get local lads back to cricket as well. The interest faded a little bit over the last couple of seasons with one thing and another but again, it's not just our club. Quite a few are struggling for numbers and I think that was another cause of a few clubs not turning sides out this year because they couldn't guarantee to get 11 players out every week.”
Bar income is another issue for clubs and with new restrictions on capacity and opening times, it is set to be a hard winter.
And for clubs like Aston whose clubhouse is not open daily, it's an added struggle.
“We are not a cricket club that is open every night,” he said “Ultimately we live off the birthday parties anniversaries and functions that people book with us.
“They keep the club going and although we are trying to plan for next year, we are a bit up in the air as well and we don't know whether overseas players are going to be allowed to come over.”
Rob is still grateful the club has been able to get some cricket in this year, although the logistics around matchdays were a challenge.
He added: “It has been hard work making sure you have sanitising situations and everyone is following guidance around the ground, such as not using the changing rooms or being able to shower and only one at a time in the toilets and limits in the clubhouse.
“Obviously we are all volunteers. It has been enjoyable because we have got some cricket on but it has been hard work.
“Some clubs might not recover from all this but hopefully that won't happen.”