£1m boost for Hampshire grassroots cricket since the start of the pandemic

Grants and fundraising income for Hampshire grassroots cricket since the start of the pandemic has crashed through the magical £1m barrier.

Wednesday, 27th January 2021, 9:54 am
Portsmouth CC have raised over £20,000 from fundraising to help renovate their pavilion at St Helens. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Clubs have taken advantage of a range of financial aid packages in the last 11 months ago to ensure they don’t become a victim of the bleak economic climate.

They have claimed almost £600,000 of Government Small Business Grants, and just over £150,000 of ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) Emergency Support.

Fifty-three clubs took advantage of the ECB grants, and one league - an indoor league based in Eversley in the north of the county.

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Grassroots cricket action from Portsmouth v St Cross 2nds at St Helens last summer. Picture: Keith Woodland

Now renamed as the ECB Return to Cricket Grant Scheme, the deadline for applying has just been extended again until the end of March.

The Small Business Grants were capped at £10,000 while the ECB’s handouts were up to a maximum of £3,000.

The best part of £110,000 has been received from the Sport England Community Fund, which was formed at the end of last March offering grants of between £300 and £10,000.

Taking the overall figure into seven figures, clubs affiliated to the Hampshire Cricket Board have also raised almost £150,000 themselves via a multitude of fundraising initiatives.

For example, The News has recently featured Portsmouth Cricket Club’s online Crowdfunding appeal which raised over £20,000 towards a much-needed St Helens pavilion revamp.

Of the £149,067 figure raised by clubs, £40,791 has been handed to non-club causes - such as charities.

Locally, players at Fareham & Crofton CC last summer raised over £2,500 via a sponsored bike ride. While half of that went into the club coffers, half was given to the Moving On Project - an organisation providing counselling and mental health services for 11-25 year-olds in the Fareham and Gosport area.

Elsewhere, Portsmouth Community CC staged a sponsored walk last October where 25 per cent of the cash raised went to Opening Up, a not for profit organisation run by volunteers promoting mental wellbeing and suicide prevention through cricket.

In all, 152 separate grants have been made - contributing to an overall total of £1,004,524.

Of that, the 19 clubs based in the Portsmouth, Fareham and Havant local authority regions have either been handed or fundraised £124,493. Of those 19, only four have banked a £10,000 Small Business Grant.

‘Councils have been very proactive,’ said Simon Jones, a Portsmouth CC player and the Hampshire Cricket Board’s cricket development manager.

‘I know of some clubs who have just found the money in their accounts.

‘I also know some local authorities - Test Valley, Hart - have been proactive in actually phoning up clubs asking them why they hadn’t applied for their money yet!’

Jones has been ‘very impressed’ with clubs’ attitudes during the pandemic.

‘The financial impact of this is going to be quite long-lasting and clubs have recognised there are only finite funds available,’ he explained.

‘I’ve spoken to clubs who have told me ‘we’ll apply for this one, but not that one’.

‘Clubs have been very good about it all.’

Cricket’s governing body have handed out free cash to clubs even though the financial vultures haven’t exactly been circling.

‘The ECB have taken the view they will give out grants without asking to look at clubs’ bank balances,’ Jones said.

‘If someone had £50,000 in their account there might be some raised eyebrows, but generally money in their accounts hasn’t been a bar to receiving grants.

‘If a club has been run responsibly, they should have good reserves.

‘There should be money you can dip into, but you can’t live hand to mouth - you can’t rely entirely on grant funding.

‘But every club is in a different situation and will need different amounts to carry on.’

As well as grants, grassroots clubs can also access loans via the ECB Cricket Trust’s interest-free scheme.

Loans of up to £50,000 are available, but clubs have to show they have 25 per cent of that money in their own account.

Loans are repayable over five years, with a one-year repayment holiday.

Jones said that at any one time there could be between 6-10 clubs in Hampshire taking advantage of that scheme.

Another cash-saving initiative for clubs is the chance of being given a free portable defibrillator for installation at their ground.

Since last summer, over 30 of the potentially life-saving pieces of medical equipment have been awarded to clubs, even though due to lockdown restrictions they haven’t actually taken delivery of them yet.

There are still 10 available thanks to a joint venture between the Hampshire Cricket Foundation, the Club Cricket Charity and the Hampshire Cricket Board/ECB.

The closing date for applications is January 31. Email [email protected] for details.

Clubs receiving a defibrillator must pay £600 over four years to help with maintenance issues, but that fee also includes training on how to use them.

Locally, Gosport Borough CC will be installing one at Privett Park ahead of the 2021 season.