02233

Money talks in the battle for survival
Thursday 3rd May 2007

The setting is serene, the facilities good, and it remains a centre of activity throughout the week. Sefton Park Cricket Club is steeped in history and is celebrating its 150th anniversary in three years' time. Yet it is also facing up to the realities of trying to exist in an 'amateur cricket' environment when the onus these days is on sponsorship and payments to players.

Despite the club's relegation to the Liverpool Competition's First Division in 2006, captain Ben Moore is trying to maintain high playing standards, without the 'costs' that go with it. The club has used paid pros in the past, but he doubts the long term success of them.

Moore said: "There is an argument we don't have top first team quality. That can be blamed on the fact that most decent players have been asking for between £50-£100 to play.

ďWe certainly donít have any bought pros this year. From my point of view the league has been split on paid players and pro-paid players. I donít know whether there will be a change if payments go on. Itís crazy and wholly unsuitable. If you get a great pro it's one of the ideals. Paul Strang and James Marshall have been quality cricketers who perform regularly, and were down at their clubs three or four times a week. They were great value for the money."

Sefton's Premier days are over, if only temporary, but Moore admitted: "There is a larger number of people playing in the Premier League where you know at least five, if not seven or eight you are playing against, are at least getting 'expenses'. To the rank amateurs among us it puts a different tint on the game."

Moore is in his second year as captain and has former Liverpool player Chris Wylie as the cricket chairman. "We have always been pretty poor in terms of looking for sponsorship," stated Moore. "Chris and I are looking at things in a more pro-active way, but I think it's a struggle for all clubs outside the big four or five.

"Sefton has always been very strong, membershipwise, and I am really quite happy with our playing squad. We have plenty of young talent. It's a fantastic club to be at. What we have worked on is in integrating the club Ė first teamers knowing fourth teamers and vice-versa. It's important for cricket clubs and their development that everyone feels part of it."

Moore underlined the necessity for balancing who, if anyone, is paid with the state of the finances.

"The reason money is quite tight is that we have spent £20000 on a new roof and new electrics. That would hit any club, to be perfectly honest. You look at the accounts and see it's not worth the money to invest on an overseas player. It's important you have a flagship side, for new members as well as current ones, but we are just looking at it responsibly.Ē

The third eleven ground adjacent to the main one has been successful. "It keeps two of the club sides at one venue every Saturday and, in terms of revenue from it, we do make some money from hiring the ground."

Looking at the overall cricket scene, Moore said: "There is already a gap at the top with Bootle dominating, but the likes of Northern have done well to bridge that gap. Itís easy to get side tracked and blame the bigger sides who are always paying players, but Bootle's facilities have improved 50 fold in the past 10 years and Northern is a fantastic place to play.

"You see sides paying large sums to their playing staff but not having the facilities to justify that. I am very passionate about club cricket having an amateur focus. Overseas players cost but everyone says they are a necessity that they can't survive without."

Moore added: "The alternative is people saying we donít want these any more and reverting to playing amateur cricket. It was mooted at the recent meeting that restrictions might come in on performances of overseas players. That reflects on the effect these guys are having on the game."