Club Cricket Conference

Wednesday, 8th April 2020

Not all clubs survive every peril – ask Yorkley Star


By Charles Randall

28 October 2015

Cricket clubs fold for various reasons, but the experience of Yorkley Star CC, long established in Gloucestershire, almost defies belief as repeated damage to their playing area by wild boars rushed them headlong into closure this year.
Yorkley's 2014 season in the West Gloucestershire Cricket Association's Forest League Division One had to be scrapped after the outfield was ruined by night-time visits by boars that proliferated in the Forest of Dean. Though the turf was relaid in time for 2015, the committee admitted defeat when the rooting boars returned to churn up the ground again.

By then a player shortage had hinted at the unthinkable. Yorkley, founded in the 1880s, had reason to be proud of their ground at Cut and Fry Green, not to mention a strong team and impressive fund-raising, but the string of cancelled matches and gaps in the 2015 fixture list ensured players had to look elsewhere for their cricket in the area north of Lydney.

Clubs in the past have been destroyed by bad luck – Rickmansworth CC in Hertfordshire were rocked temporarily by serious damage to their square by badgers in 2013 – but Yorkley must be one of the saddest and most undeserving cases.  

One of the Yorkley trustees Alec Kear, 80, told the Gloucester Citizen that the Forest of Dean was overrun by wild boar. “The ground is like a war-zone,” he said. “It's unbelievable. Nothing has stopped play for this club before. We were going all the way through the War, but we just can't cope with this."

A number of clubs have suffered major setbacks without disappearing. A good example would be Threlkeld CC in Cumbria, where flooding in 2012 left a fine ground covered in mud, toxic waste and rocks. At least the mess could be cleared and cricket could resume on the assumption the natural disaster would not be repeated.

Threlkeld lost their facilities for three years, re-opening in June this year, after frantic fund-raising and a legal tussle with land owners Cumbria County Council, which was settled out of court in June this year so that the ECB's charitable trust could be repaid for their assistance in resurrecting this most scenic of  grounds.
Many clubs seek the merger route, as have Sheffield United and neighbouring Rotherham Phoenix in the east edge of the city, confirmed this month before the brave new 2016 season for the re-organised Yorkshire League, to be split north and south.

Sheffield United won seven titles in the old Yorkshire League since the start in 1936, the same as their cross-town rivals Collegiate, best known for producing Joe Root and Michael Vaughan. While York took over as the modern colossus with eight titles in nine years to 2015, United struggled, and the merger with Phoenix, based in nearby Brinsworth, seemed natural enough. Rotherham Town remain a force, going into the new South division with four old Yorkshire titles under their belt.

The regionalising to save on travel costs and time was strongly supported by Mark Arthur, chief executive of the Yorkshire county club. Though traditions and old rivalries had to be rethought, the idea made sense. Some leagues paid a heavy price for the ECB reorganisations about 15 years ago, such as the widely spaced East Anglia.

The Yorkshire League's new top tier will be two 12-team north and south divisions, with promotion and relegation into feeder leagues. The 110-over format will be replaced by a straight 50 overs per side, incorporating the Duckworth-Lewis method and leg-side wides. Sides from both divisions will meet in a new league cup competition, and an end-of-season play-off will determine Yorkshire’s top club. Promotion and relegation, two up two down, is to involve the feeder leagues South Yorkshire Senior, York & District, Bradford, amalgamated with the Central Yorkshire, and North Yorkshire & South Durham.
Yorkshire League South: Appleby Frodingham, Aston Hall, Barnsley, Cleethorpes, Doncaster Town, Rotherham Town, Sheffield Collegiate, Sheffield & Phoenix United, Treeton, Wakefield Thornes, Whitley Hall, Wickersley Old Village.

North: Acomb, Castleford, Driffield, Dunnington, Harrogate, Hull, Scarborough, Sheriff Hutton Bridge, Stamford Bridge, Woodhouse Grange, York, Yorkshire Academy.