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Allerton Cricket Club has won a dramatic reprieve in the Bradford Mutual Sunday School League and it’s all thanks to the generosity of another club, Salem Athletic.
This is extraordinary because a cricket club’s future was at stake and the wheels were in motion for it to fold but instead, it is back from the brink in less than three months – and being given all the tools to continue league cricket in 2018.
It all started when Allerton Cricket Club resigned from the Bradford Mutual Sunday School League in December, citing irreconcilable problems with their Bradford Council lease.
Thankfully, this since appears to be on the way to being sorted but there was still an issue around sourcing enough players.
An emergency general meeting held at Clayton Rugby League Club saw the League’s clubs unanimously vote 19-0 to allow Allerton back in – though that isn’t really the story.
Salem Athletic Cricket Club, who won the league last season and date all the way back to 1896, decided to step in and offer support to Allerton in a range of ways from players to groundsmen and financial backing.
When it boils down to it, club cricket is a community and there are many instances of helping each other but there is also fierce competition for players, funding, publicity and volunteers, often in tight geographical areas, that means a tribal, each-for-themselves mentality is also inevitable.
The thing about Salem Athletic’s intervention is that it went way beyond the loan of a mower. It sounds akin to a takeover but not in a malevolent way.
They are close enough – less than two miles separates their grounds at BD9 and BD15 – to make sharing resources and skills sensible.
Salem Athletic’s Secretary, Hafiz Rahman said this of Allerton’s situation:
“It was sad, especially for cricket lovers…inner-city cricket is already dying…clubs are folding and it’s a domino effect…we don’t want to be in a position where it’s also our club.”
He added that Salem themselves were in a similar situation several years ago when committee members decided to resign and Hafiz was left by himself – but he had an approach with an offer to wipe out the club’s debts and start afresh, allied with an injection of ideas.
This renaissance of Salem was spearheaded by their now Chairman Qasim Khan (right) and Treasurer Arif Mehmood. The two local businessmen stepped in and rescued Salem Athletic when it was floundering last year and the results, on and off the field, have been striking.
In no time at all, Salem Athletic had organised two junior teams and began to see a run of positive results culminating in the trophy cabinet becoming cluttered.
Their 25-run win over Cambing at Manningham Mills last year was their fourth win in seven appearances in the H Broadbent Trophy.
From their player-base of around 60 members, Salem Athletic have donated 30 cricketers to bolster Allerton CC for 2018.
They are chiefly those currently involved with tapeball and street cricket who will make the transition to lower-league cricket with Allerton.
At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, that was what stuck out about this particular story of community. A cricket club typically is battling to retain players though they might loan out one or two who can’t get a game.
To transfer the equivalent of several cricket teams is unprecedented. It is a similar arrangement to a feeder club with the added administrative support that has seen a new interim body established to assist Allerton who are lacking in volunteers for committee duty.
As Hafiz puts it: “When you have a strong executive committee with you, they see the vision and everybody’s doing their bit. If I was doing all this myself, I’d be in big trouble.”
We discuss the perennial problem of cricket clubs relying heavily on a small group of trusty volunteers who may decide to pack it in, leaving a vacuum of knowledge and willingness to do the day-to-day operational work:
“You need to make sure you create a second Hafiz or a second Kasim because then you know you’ve got sustainability.”
Whether it’s helping set up on PlayerReg, donating ground equipment or balancing the squads between old and new cricketers, there is much to do but the impetus and will is there to make it all happen.
— AllertonCricketClub (@AllertonCC_WY) May 28, 2017
Securing a groundman for Allerton Cricket Club has been a key recent success and the transfer of players to Allerton, who will compete in Group C, offers a satellite club relationship for ambitious players to try to climb the league.
Identity remains a sensitive issue in the management of a club in trouble and while mergers are becoming more common (see our East Yorkshire article), it was important to all parties that Allerton’s name was retained.
Meanwhile, the start of January saw the opening of a new cricket facility in Bradford called The Carlton Cricket Academy; a partnership between Salem Athletic Cricket Club and secondary school, Carlton Bolling College.
It will see the cricket club train at the school and offer a pathway for young cricketers who want progress from a school to a club environment; though broader goals include wider participation, promoting healthier lifestyles and elite player development.
As the driving rain smears the office windows here at Cricket Yorkshire HQ, the 2018 season feels a surreal notion – but county cricket arrives in early April and the club friendlies then league action won’t be far behind.
You only have to see how multiple teams folding has forced numerous leagues such as the Wetherby Cricket League, Nidderdale Cricket League and York Senior League to re-do their fixtures to know many clubs are still under pressure and treading a tightrope to keep going.
But, the success stories are out there too and for Allerton Cricket Club, there is renewed hope after this unexpected lifeline.
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It’s my view that the news agenda is dominated by negativity but the uplifting stories deserve their place too.
You can visit the websites of the clubs mentioned (and the league) below:
Bradford Mutual Sunday School League – http://bmsscl.play-cricket.com/