Portsmouth CC receive £2,780 of Sport England Emergency Fund cash – and this is how they plan to spend it ...

Portsmouth’s top cricket club has been awarded nearly £3,000 of National Lottery funding to help keep it afloat during the pandemic.

Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 1:36 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 3:21 pm
Portsmouth CC take on Sarisbury CC in a Southern League gaem at St. Helens. Will similar scenes take place at the ground next month?

Portsmouth CC, which plays at St Helen’s on Southsea seafront, have banked £2,780 from Sport England’s Community Emergency Fund.

Sport England set up a £195m fund at the end of March, shortly after lockdown was imposed, to help the sport and physical activity sector through covid-19.

Within that package is a £20m Community Emergency Fund, via National Lottery money, to deliver immediate funding to those who have a role in supporting the nation to be active but are experiencing short-term financial hardship or the ceasing of operations due to the impact of coronavirus.

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Portsmouth chairman Rick Marston said the club - whose 1st XI play in the Southern Premier League - had initially planned to put any grant money towards pitch preparation and other essential maintenance costs.

But, a few months on, the focus has changed and instead virtually all the cash will be spent on junior coaching courses.

‘We are very, very grateful to Sport England,’ Marston told The News.

‘We’ve obviously had no bar income, no bbq income, and heavily reduced membership fees, so that money is vitally needed.’

While there is no date yet fixed for games to be played - at either junior or adult level - at least Portsmouth have been able to open their nets and start small training groups in recent weeks.

‘In my opinion, though I’m biased, we have done remarkably well.’ said Marston. ‘We have phased things back very successfully.

‘Initially we had 1 on 1 net sessions under ECB, then for the last two weeks we’ve had group ‘bubble’ training.

‘There’s been groups of five and a coach, or six adults. It’s been quite successful, we’ve had over 100 bookings for the nets.

‘We’ve managed to get 20 under-11s down in groups of five, we’ve had the under-13s, we’ve had 10 from each of the under-15s and under-17s.

‘We also had 20 under-9s down in groups of four with a coach each.

‘It’s slightly easier with the juniors, they’re happy just to train, they’re not so desperate to play matches. The adults just want to play matches, they’re a bit more set in their ways.

‘The colts are the lifeblood of the club, so it’s great that they’re now training and netting and paying their fees.

‘Now we can give something back to those who carried on paying their membership fees. We can offer organised, structured coaching sessions.

‘I don’t know how many young adults we could lose, though. I worry about how many will come back into it if they lose a whole season, but I am sure our worries are the same as every other local sports club.’

Marston continued: ‘A lot of the grant money, if not all of it, will go on the junior coaching budget. That way we are giving it back to our members.

‘We are always keen for youngsters to take their level 2 course, and we’ve got about 15 junior coaches at the club.

‘Dan Wallace is our head coach, he’s been with the club since he was 11 and he started as a junior coach at 16. He’s now 22.

‘The level 2 course is quite expensive, around £300, but we see it as a good investment.

‘The junior coaches can coach at our summer academies, they can coach at our evening sessions - we get a lot back from it.

‘It’s just another part of being a community club. I’d say 70 or 80 per cent of our members can walk to the ground, which is fantastic.’

In the absence of bar income and match fees, Portsmouth have been relying on members happily carrying on paying monthly subscriptions during lockdown.

‘We’re thankful that a lot of our members stuck by us and carried on paying their membership fees,’ said Marston.

‘Glyn Davies is our treasurer, and being a treasurer is probably the worst position to hold at a club because you’re always asking for money.

‘Glyn has changed the way members can pay. Instead of starting in April, as they did before, members can now pay a monthly fee throughout the year.

‘That’s worked brilliantly for us and helped with our cashflow.’

Currently Marson is ‘hopeful’ that by early July Portsmouth could be able to host some T20 games against local opposition. ‘Potentially that could happen,’ he said.

‘Even a few T20 games would make a big difference to people’s inclinations to keep going.

‘Hopefully by early July we will also see some colts games.

‘The way to do it will be to play local teams - we can play Portsmouth and Southsea easily, hopefully Havant and Fareham.

‘There’s not going to be any league games, so there’s no point travelling to Basingstoke just to play a friendly. I can’t see any benefit in that.

‘This could be an opportunity to reunite with some of our local opponents.

‘I think there will be a lot of shorter games, T20s rather than 50-overs.

‘We can squeeze in more games that way. We could play three games at the club between 12 and 8. That way we could keep 33 players happy rather than just 11. That’s the way forward.

‘The government relaxing the 2m social distancing will make a big difference to us, and we are really, really hopeful we can open the bar soon.

‘At the moment we’re looking to open on July 4 as an outside bar for members only. It will be a massive boost to our potential income.

‘We don’t do draughts any more as they weren’t cost effective, we sell bottles and cans.

‘We could encourage people to bring their own chairs and even their own wine glasses to reduce the risk of contamination.

‘We’ve got lots of space - we know there are lots of pubs that are in a far worse position than we are.’