Lymington Town Council's blueprint for the future of sport in the town was the main talking point at Lymington Cricket Club's annual general meeting recently. A tentative proposal from the council to relocate the cricket and tennis clubs from the Sports Ground to Woodside within the next ten years was unveiled in the press before Christmas, but the idea of moving from their home of almost 170 years met with a very lukewarm response from the gathered cricket club members.
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The council see the plan as a final solution to the ongoing difficulties of ground-sharing between the football and cricket clubs - caused by the respective clubs’ over-lapping seasons and strict Wessex League ground regulations that insist on hard standing around pitches. A major sticking point would be the huge cost of the project - thought to be around £1 million. It is believed that the council would expect the cricket club to raise a substantial proportion of the money required for the project - money that the club simply doesn't have.
As yet, it is unclear exactly what facilities would await the cricket club at a re-developed Woodside, although a similar failed plan some ten years ago included a leveled, drained and re-aligned cricket pitch and redeveloped pavilion. However, for the latest proposals to be an attractive proposition the cricket club would be looking for the council to provide a brand new pavilion, nursery pitch, training facilities and - most important of all - a gold standard wicket. As one club member put it: "Why would we want to go through the upheaval of leaving a popular home like the Sports Ground for an inferior vandal-ridden facility down the road? And all because the local football team wants to play a game or two in August!"
Despite concerns over the council's plans, Chairman Peter Tapper reassured members that the cricket club would have the final say in whether it relocated or not. "I must emphasise that we don't have to move if we don't want to" he said. "We've requested drawings of the council's proposed development, but so far nothing has appeared, so I'm not sure how we can comment without seeing any plans".
The Chairman also questioned how the council could ever expect the cricket club to finance the scheme. One member commented that there have been a few examples in the past of clubs raising such vast sums to improve their facilities, but in virtually all of those cases the big incentive for the club was to move from an inferior ground to a much better facility. This simply wouldn't be the case with the Sports Ground which is widely regarded as one of the best grounds in the county. Without that incentive it was unlikely that such an amount of money could be raised.
Should the council come up with the cricket club's list of requirements (and pay for it!), the Woodside plan could yet be a highly attractive proposition: a facility that could be of benefit to the club, the town and future generations. However, the big fear for Lymington Cricket Club members is the possibility of being dumped down at Woodside with a pitch and facilities barely superior to what exists there at present. And while that fear exists, the feeling is that the Lymington members will be quite happy to stay right where they are.
As if to emphasise the club's inability to provide the estimated three-quarters of a million pounds for a potential new ground, Treasurer Meg Gannaway painted a somewhat gloomy picture of the club's finances at the AGM. Income in 2005 was well down on the previous year and this was attributed to a number of reasons. Firstly, a decreased membership meant a significant drop in subs and match fees. This was exasperated by the increasing number of colts who play in the senior league sides and therefore pay a reduced match fee. Early finishes and a reduction in the amount of Sunday and midweek friendlies also badly affected bar profits in 2005, while income from sponsorship and the corporate golf day were also down. And while the Treasurer reassured members that the club still had substantial funds in the bank, he warned that without the golf days and Development Fund the club would soon become unsustainable. "Cricket simply doesn't pay for itself anymore" he added. To address the drop in income, match fees and subscriptions have regrettably been increased for the 2006 season. Subscriptions will increase by £5 to £50 for adults, £25 for students and £20 for colts, while Saturday match fees will increase from £6 to £7 for seniors and £5 for students and colts. Sunday and midweek match fees rise to £5. Commenting on the accounts, President Brian Hobby emphasised that the club's finances need carefully managing from now on.
One major expenditure in the next couple of years may well be a new engine for the roller which could cost up to £2,500. This fact was highlighted by Robin Goff in his ground report for 2005. Robin also revealed that the Sports Ground pitch gradings were more than 2 points down on 2004 - and as a result we will receive an official warning from the SPL if the marks continue to fall. Suggestions for the lower markings range from a lack of water, too much rolling and the slit tining at the start of the season.
Retiring Chairman of Selectors Tony Jenkin commended First XI skipper Adie Hunt on the way he managed to get his players to play as a team. He also praised Australian Pete Smith for the huge effect he had both on and off the field, although there was disappointment with the news that Pete's injured ankle will probably prevent him from returning to England this summer. Jenky also thanked all the respective captains, not least Fourth XI skipper Meg Gannaway. "Some weeks at selection meetings we would tell Meg that there weren't enough players to go round and he would have to cancel his match. But every week he somehow managed to muster up enough old blokes, parents and youngsters to get the game on. I swear some of the kids that played were still in their nappies!" he quipped.
Tony Wharton gave a comprehensive colts report in which he mentioned the pleasure he got from seeing so many former Lymington colts turning out for the First XI last season. He congratulated all the colts managers and helpers, especially Tony Thorp whose Under 13s won the New Forest Cup and just missed out on a league and cup double.
Three new committee members were voted in at the meeting. Nick Lee takes over from Neill Denby as Fixtures Secretary, while Jim Lowe and Christian Pain were elected to the general committee. Adie Hunt and Meg Gannaway were re-elected as First and 4th XI captains respectively, while Dave Griffiths has become the permanent Second XI captain and Jim Lowe has taken on the role of Third XI captain. Finally, in appreciation of their many years of hard work and dedication to the club Jerry Holt and Anne Craft were unanimously voted in as Honoray Members, while Tony Jenkin, Bob Iles and Chris Hunt were elected as new Vice Presidents.