By Charles Randall
17 December 2011
The National Club Championship has attracted new backing -- the Indian brewers Kingfisher. That is a welcome boost for an ECB competition seemingly under threat three years ago.
The switch by previous backers Cockspur Rum to the 20-over format in 2008 left the longstanding 45-overs championship unsponsored and in doubt, though the ECB, to their great credit, preserved it with a pruned-down entry. A feeling of uncertainty was heightened by the demise of the Evening Standard Trophy, leaving a vacuum in the London area now filled by the Club Cricket Conference Cup.
The ECB said that the Kingfisher Beer Cup would continue to be "the pinnacle of club cricket" in England and Wales where the best club sides across the country will be competing for prestige and a £5,000 prize. The final will be held at a county ground to ensure a memorable day for each club.
Shrewsbury became National Club champions this year by beating Cambridge Granta at the Derby County Ground, and England goalkeeper Joe Hart might well have played if his sport career had not taken a different path into professional football. Ed Foster, Shrewsbury's captain, guided his team to victory in the final with an undefeated 98. The family name might sound familiar, because his father John played in the last Shrewsbury side to win the competition back in 1983.
Kingfisher is a brand long associated with cricket, most recently sponsoring India’s tour of England. With an established international presence in cricket they are keen to extend their links by investing in the recreational game. In 2012 a total of 256 teams are scheduled for the first round of the Kingfisher Beer Cup.
Laura Mitchell, the company's European marketing manager, said: "As India’s No 1 beer, cricket has long been a core passion for Kingfisher in its home market. We are therefore excited to build the brand’s association with ECB recreational cricket and plan to drive investment into the sport through a number of fund-raising initiatives for clubs through the Kingfisher Beer Cup. In addition to this, we are delighted to be able to offer the 2012 winning team £5,000 to invest in their club as they see fit. Good luck to all participating clubs."
The Cockspur 20-overs final was won by the Middlesex League champions Ealing, who destroyed Chester-le-Street by 10 wickets on Sky Sport at County Ground at Chelmsford. They beat St Just, from Cornwall, in the semi-final.