By Charles Randall
11 November 2014
Worrying statistics prompted the suspension of The Conference Cup competition for a year in 2015 to allow further consultation after an unprecedented number of first-round conceded matches.
Though the number of clubs entering the Cup remained encouragingly stable – 60 in 2014, 64 in 2013, 59 in 2012 – the overall enthusiasm among players seemed to diminish in 2014 when virtually half of the first-round ties were settled by walkovers, followed by two more in the second round.
Alf Langley, the Conference chairman, said in a recent letter to clubs that this poor support had forced a rethink. He added: “Given the discussions we are hearing as we travel around the various counties in which we play, umpire, or watch cricket, it has become obvious to us that there is currently an over-provision of cup competitions for current appetites.”
The decision was taken reluctantly at board level after extensive debate. The clear downturn of interest offered no clear pattern, such as travelling distance or weather. Out of 13 conceded games in the first round, three were home club decisions.
The Club Cricket Conference took on responsibility for the competition in 2009 when the firmly established Evening Standard Trophy lost its sponsors. Despite minimal funding, the time and effort put in by organisers and club secretaries alike generated some excellent cricket, well supported by a solid number of clubs in the M25 region. The 2014 winners Reigate Priory, Surrey Championship title-holders, had entered for the first time.
There was no denying the huge withdrawal rate, which suggested disaffection. The 13 first-round walkovers came as a shock, because in a very wet 2012 the competition suffered five and there were only four last year. The dent in credibility proved to be especially disappointing for the Conference Board. The Cup had formed part of a mutually beneficial sponsorship package with the Barbados Tourist Authority and Smile Group Travel.
Langley concluded in his letter: “We have therefore, with apologies to those clubs who have supported us well and would do so again, decided not to run The Conference Cup in 2015. We shall instead consider, alongside ECB’s consideration of the National Club Championship, what might be provided in 2016 that would better meet member clubs' needs. I know this news will come as a disappointment to some, but the CCC Board firmly believes it is the best interests of the game for us to take a pause so far as The Conference Cup is concerned.”
The reduced funding ensured there could be no serious prize money and no prestige venue for the final after 17 years at The Oval. From 2009 The Conference Cup winners were Finchley, Wanstead, Lordswood, Valley End, Waltham and Reigate Priory.
At The Oval
1992 Teddington bt Fives & Heronians
1993 Finchley bt Dartford
1994 Ealing bt Spencer
1995 Malden Wanderers bt Harrow
1996 Teddington bt Bexley
1997 Brondesbury bt Sevenoaks Vine
1998 Teddington bt Finchley
1999 Brondesbury bt Stanmore
2000 Finchley bt Uxbridge
2001 Wanstead bt Bexley
2002 High Wycombe bt Teddington
2003 Radlett bt Lordswood
2004 Finchley bt Hainault & Clayhall
2005 Bromley bt Ealing
2006 Finchley bt Ealing
2007 Ealing bt Blackheath
2008 Ealing bt Sunbury
The Conference Cup
2009 Finchley bt Waltham (at Shenley Park)
2010 Wanstead bt Finchley (at Shenley Park)
2011 Lordswood bt Chingford at (Banstead)
2012 Valley End bt Brentwood (at Amersham)
2013 Waltham bt Blackheath (at Stanmore)
2014 Reigate Priory bt Bromley (at Ealing)