Southend Cricket Festival – Response from Essex County Cricket Club

The South Essex District Cricket Board received an email reply from Essex County Cricket Club on 7th October 2011 following our representations to them about the immediate cancellation of first class cricket in Southend.  The email correspondence is reproduced below.

Our Communication to the County Board Cricket Development Officer (6th October 2011)

As Secretary of the South Essex District Cricket Board, I am beginning to receive an increasing number of emails and representation from our local cricket community, including strong representation from one of our own committee members.  I have now asked our Chairman, Kevin Hymas, for direction as to how to proceed.  My most recent email, from a Hon. Secretary of one of our member clubs, points not only to the loss of the first class game in Southend and a tradition going back over 100 years, but a particular concern about the consequential axing of the highly popular junior kwik cricket festival, which, I am informed, has over 300 participants each year.  I have heard from one member club with a previously small youth section how the festival enthused its new intake of young children into the game.  How tragic that this opportunity now seems lost.

I noticed that, last week, billboards were outside almost every newsagents in the Southend area and beyond exclaiming “Southend Cricket Axed” and this at a time when the Southend area received its highest visitor figures of the year, due to the recent spell of hot weather.  Can you imagine the negativity that has been engendered by this?  In case you were not aware, concerns about youth cricket development in Southend following the Essex CCC decision has made headline news and there is undoubtedly a fear that this will be impacted in the levels of participation and club growth in Southend, as the sport will now have much less of a profile in the Southend area than previously.  It seems to me that this issue has been second only to Dale Farm in the amount of local publicity being generated.  Now Southend Borough Council has entered the fray, and the authority has called a public meeting for next Wednesday.  Can it get any worse for cricket in the South Board area?

Unsurprisingly, the South Essex District Cricket Board received no notification or consultation that a decision to scrap the festival would be made.  I presume that Essex CCC will be hiding behind the veil of a decision made by a private members’ club, regardless of the consequences to the wider community, its economy and, moreover, insofar as my role as Secretary of the SEDCB is concerned, the impact on its member clubs.  The lack of information available to the SEDCB is currently making me look rather ignorant of the whole situation.

I do appreciate that this issue has the potential to cause you a conflict of interest, which is why I will, on this occasion, be seeking the guidance from the SEDCB chairman and acting on his direction.   But as I am only hearing one side of the story at the present time, it would be nice to hear from either the Essex County Cricket Board (or club) in respect of the following questions:

(a) Why exactly has the Southend Cricket Festival been axed?
(b) Did Essex CCC receive any adverse reports from its members or other Counties or the ECB about the facilities at Southend?
(c) Have the views been taken of ALL Essex members about the Southend Festival?  Have they been balloted?
(d) Did any prior consultation take place with Southend Borough Council or the wider cricket community in Southend including our member clubs?
(e) Are there any conditions set out that, if met, would see the return of Essex CCC cricket to Southend?
(f)  What development initiatives are in place for the Southend area, such as to replace the axing of the festival’s junior kwik cricket competition?

I hope to receive a full and detailed response as soon as possible so, at least, my Chairman and I can have the full facts on our committee table.

Communication received from the Chief Executive of  Essex CCC  (7th October 2011)

I can fully appreciate that not staging the Southend Festival will be a significant disappointment to some people.  However when considering this matter the Club General Committee (the body responsible for making decisions on behalf of the Club) has quite rightly noted the views of its wider membership, as only 10% reside in the Southend area.

You are correct in your statement that Essex County Cricket Club Ltd is a members club with direct responsibilities to its membership.  However the Essex County Cricket Board Ltd is a separately constituted and incorporated body which works autonomously from the Club in advancing recreational and cricket development in the county.  Whilst there is considerable collaboration between the two organisations, they do work to different agendas and objectives.

The Club has taken the decision to not stage the Southend festival at Garon Park in 2012, and this is entirely separate from the County Board’s ongoing commitment to recreational and developmental cricket in the South of the county. The Club and the Board remain completely supportive of the Centre of Excellence project at Garon Park and fully intend to continue with women’s and girls, county age group and Second X1 cricket for 2012.  In addition we will readily consider the use of the facilities by other interested recreational cricket groups, local or otherwise, provided they can be shared in the interests of all concerned.

I have spoken with my development colleagues with regard to the Kwik Cricket festival and I am assured that this can be continued for 2012.  In this regard I would respectfully suggest you have an early conversation with Tracey Davies and/or Pat Ward so that concerns about the future of this excellent event can be allayed.