By Charles Randall
12 May 2012
The future of Charlton Kings CC is now due to be decided in the High Court in London on 6-7 June, the provisional date for the hearing to establish the Gloucestershire club's right to use a chunk of their outfield.
This should bring to a conclusion one of the most extraordinary and saddest cases in the sport's annals. If the judgment goes against Charlton Kings, the club will be left with an insufficient area of their own land to continue serious cricket and will be saddled with a legal bill well in excess of £200,000, an eventuality that would probably force the sale of their freehold on the edge of Cheltenham.
Current legal costs jumped to about £120,000 in March when a four-day hearing in the High Court at Birmingham was adjourned by the Judge after a dispute about legal technicalities. Lawyers were given more time to scrutinise the 1947 tenancy agreement at Ryeworth Fields more closely.
The Charlton Kings development officer Geoff White has appealed for financial help. The club's plight has been supported locally by the Gloucestershire Cricket Board and highlighted in the national media. The fighting fund has passed the £20,000 mark, still well below the costs already incurred. A three-minute video has been set up on Youtube, summarising the club's significant contribution to the community.
White said that attempts to mediate out of court with the owner of the strip after the Birmingham adjournment had failed. "It's a fight to the death," he said. "If we lose, almost certainly the club will fold. To lose a fifth of the playing area on a two and a half acre site would be devastating. We have had to spend a lot of money fighting the case, but the ground is the key."
The Charlton Kings ground is set in an area of outstanding natural beauty. White added: "It's hugely frustrating with all this money we could otherwise be channelling into the kids set-up and improving our facilities. We had pavilion plans pretty much drawn up, but all that has had to go by the wayside unfortunately."
The strip, owned by the Mitchell family, has been used for cricket at Greenway Lane for more than 100 years, according to the club. The dispute began in 2011 after Jacki Mitchell, 63, the American-born widow of the landowner, became aware of the freehold possibilities. Arthur Mitchell, the original purchaser of the land in the pre-War generation, was a well known cricket-lover in the area.
Charlton Kings CC, founded in 1885, compete in Division One of the Cheltenham & Gloucester Cricket Association. They run three men’s teams and a women’s side. About 150 children aged between six and 17 receive coaching in the junior section, with 18 of these players currently involved with Gloucestershire at county or district level.
Steve Silk, cricket development manager at the Gloucestershire Cricket Board urged the entire cricket community to rally around and support Charlton Kings. "With its ever-growing senior and junior set-ups it is one of the most vibrant and important clubs in the county and their survival is vital for the on-going success of cricket in Gloucestershire as a whole," he said.
The Club Cricket Conference would certainly reinforce this message. Any donations, large or small, can be made to the club by clicking 'donate' on their website.