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Plans for new dressing rooms and cricket development manager

Date: Tuesday 14th February 2017

PENRITH Cricket Club officials have revealed new plans for 2017 which include building new dressing rooms for the third, fourth and junior teams, and employing a cricket development manager.

Both are dependent on funding and are part of a long-term aim of improving cricket at the club and in Eden district.

Speaking at the club’s annual meeting, chairman Andrew Hall said the club’s third and fourth team, along with the juniors, got a “poor deal” in terms of changing facilities, with the portable building they use being unfit for purpose. It has no heating or water.

“We would like to build — subject to funding — a building which would have changing rooms for four teams on both pitches,” he said. It will be difficult to raise funds, but if we don’t try we will never get. This is important for Penrith Cricket Club, for Penrith and for Eden district.”

He added that the club would be looking towards Sport England, the ECB and local support to fund the new changing rooms. “It is a huge, huge ask,” he said.

On the subject of a cricket development manager, Mr. Hall said Mark Osborne, who runs the junior, ladies and disability sections at the club, needed help.

“We are looking to hire a cricket development manager if we can secure funding. It would be a three-year post, part-time in terms of work for the club,” he said.

“The post would involve coaching in schools and coaching boys, girls and those with disabilities 12 months of the year. It is something we have to do on the basis that funding is sourced.”

The meeting had heard that the club’s accounts showed a small deficit on the year of £1,364 and that, despite record bar sales of £112,819 compared to £63,671 the previous year, the bar profits were down.

The fourth Sticky Wicket beer festival res-ulted in £4,800 from bar sales and the club’s 150th anniversary PCA Masters game the following week brought in revenue of almost £10,000.

Mr. Hall said: “Our percentage bar profit is nowhere near what we need it to be. The prices we are charging for beer are not sustainable for the club, so beer will be going up to a price to enable this club to be profitable and stay in existence. It is a business, not a charity.”

Henry Pitt, speaking on behalf of finance group leader Paul Caygill, who was unable to attend the meeting, said: “The gross profit margin achieved was well down this year. This is as a result of absorbing price increases from the brewery and other suppliers without increasing our prices, and an increase in duty which was not passed on.

“As a committee we are unhappy with a 49 per cent. gross margin this year as compared to 55 per cent. in 2015. With further impending increases from the brewery in the region of seven per cent. across everything we sell, the next step is to ensure the sutainability of the club.”

Mr. Hall spoke about the “absolute triumph” of the club’s 150th anniversary celebrations, the highlight of which was a match between a Penrith XI and the England PCS Masters at Tynefield Park in July.

He also talked about the “very, very frustrating” situation at the beginning of the season involving Harsha Vithana, a Sri Lankan who was to be the club professional, but was refused a visa.

“No-one can tell us why,” he said. “Those bureaucrats should hang their heads in shame for what they did to us and other clubs — we are a voluntary organisation trying to play cricket.”

The decision meant Penrith had to find a replacement professional for the first eight weeks of the season, until they secured the services of South African Zakhele Qwabe.

“Before the season even started we were up against it. It was a very stressful, time consuming and expensive time,” said Mr. Hall.

Penrith finished the season in 10th place in Northern League Division I, with just four wins from 24 matches.

The meeting heard that funding from Cumbria County Council allowed the club to sign South African Mikey Hay who coached in primary schools in the area. Funding was also received from Eden Council, the Pride in Penrith Lottery and Sport England.

“All coaching at the club and in schools is an investment in the club’s future,” said Mr. Hall, who cited former Penrith player Asher Hart, who has just signed for Hampshire, as a perfect example of this. He had his first introduction to cricket when he was a pupil at Patterdale School where former Penrith pro. Upul Fernando did some coaching.

“Upul and the cricket club should be very proud of helping Asher gain this dream position,” added Mr. Hall.

He also made mention of Liam Trevaskis playing for Durham II and Brodie Glendinning going on tour to Dubai with Durham at the age of only 15.

This season’s professional — subject to visa — will be all-rounder Bhanuka Rajapaksa who last season toured England with Sri Lanka A.

Club secretary Neil Swainson gave on update on the situation regarding the possible changes in structure to the Northern League.

“The current picture is that there is a willingness between the Northern League and the (Lancashire based) Palace Shield to amalgamate as of 2018. The hope is that Penrith will be part of that structure. The vision is that, eventually, the Lancashire leagues will amalgamate.”

Mr. Swainson added that at first and second XI level, Penrith is club in transition. “We have a lot of talented young players who can take the club forward. It may take three to five years, but be patient — it is a learning curve for them.”

Mark Osborne outlined the situation with junior and ladies’ cricket at the club. It had five junior teams in the Cumbria League last year, with the same planned for this, but that is a reduction of two teams from 2015 due to falling participation at under-13 and under-15 levels, which is a nationwide issue.

He appealed for more volunteers to take on roles within junior, ladies and disability sections of the club to “ensure the long-term future is a bright one”.

The meeting heard that the club’s women’s team, which had played in a Northumbria league, folded at the start of last season, partly because teams from Northumbria had shown some reluctance to travel to Cumbria, resulting in cancellations. Also, nobody came forward to take up the role of team manager, while jobs away from the area and places at university limited player availability.

“There is an initiative to try to re-establish women’s and girls’ teams. In June there will be a women’s Prosecco cricket night which as been successful at other clubs,” said Mr Osborne, who added that it was hoped a league for women’s cricket could be set up in Cumbria.

He told the meeting about an ECB All Stars initiative aimed at getting five to eight-year-olds involved in cricket. It will run from May to July and volunteers aged 18 to 25 are needed to be “activators” and run the program. “We hope it will also encourage greater social participation in the cub through parents,” he said.

Penrith first XI open their Northern League Division I season on 22nd April with a trip to champions Leyland, while the seconds host Division II champions Leyland II.

New first team captain is Jonathon Osborne, with Greg Hall vice-captain. Second team captain is Jamie O’Brien, with Adrian Robson vice-captain. Neil Swainson is third XI captain, and Dewalt Berger will lead the fourth team.

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