Chairman's blog - 10 April
Posted on 10th April 2020 at 15:09
Over the last month or so life has undoubtedly changed dramatically for most of us. There is a lot of fear and trepidation out there. At first, it is easy to say, as many did, ‘it is only flu, have it, get over it, and carry on.’ It is very unpleasant, as my colleague in the Bradford League, David Young, told us yesterday. David has been laid low for a couple of weeks now, but thank fully now seems to be on the mend. I send him, and anyone else who has it, my very best wishes for a speedy recovery.
Unfortunately though, there are those who would not get over it. I know four people with COPD – they all say that if they get it, that will be it for them. The closures and social distancing measures in place are vital to protect them, and, of course, to ensure that the NHS can cope. As a country, we vwill get over this, but it will be a long road; and in addition to those who lose their lives, there will be financial hardship for many.
There is also the issue of those who are staying at home – sometimes because they are frightened to step outside anyway – for whom the isolation will result in mental health issues. Couples where there is a weakness in their relationship will struggle with being locked in close proximity so much – we are already seeing increases in cases of domestic violence – and there is already evidence that people with other illnesses are not seeking help when they should be.
All we can really do is to do as we are told – however tempting alternatives might be in this good weather – and to be there for those we care for. Perhaps on the other end of a phone, making contact rather than waiting to be contacted; to do a bit of shopping or collect prescriptions; perhaps to share humour or something that will help them to pass the time; to encourage them to get out for a daily walk if they can.
Against that background, sport is of secondary importance. The crisis has underlined what we knew about sport already. At the highest levels, so much of it is now about business and money, rather than what we grew up to know as sport. Several key figures in sport are calling for this opportunity to be taken for their sports to ‘reset’ – for an appraisal of where they are, where they want to be, and what they need to do to change. In short, to get back to some basic principles and realism. It would be good if greed and self-interest could be overcome to make this happen. Instead, some leading figures simply want to take advantage of the situation, like the Premiership manager who has said that his club must be ready to take advantage of the opportunities that will arise in the transfer market. I find it telling that, in lower leagues in both football and rugby union, the season has simply been written off, whist at the higher level money is still talking and there is unseemly clinging on to the hope that the season can be finished – even if it means playing behind closed doors. For heaven’s sake!!
Our league committee unanimously decided that we would abandon the first half of our league campaign and aim to play an 11-match championship, with everyone playing each other once. Whether that will be possible remains to be seen. If it is not, and we play is only possible on half a dozen weekends, for example, we will probably look to do something like a cup competition and a t20 tournament played with group stages and a top-four knock-out stage. The White Rose Championship play-offs at the end of the season will not take place, so we may have the flexibility to extend the season towards the end of September, depending on ground availability.
The committee will meet by video link at the end of the month, we will discuss alternatives, and we will consult with our clubs to ensure that whatever we decide on reflects the majority wishes as far as possible. From a personal perspective, if, at our level, we get some cricket played this season, it will be a bonus.
The inactivity will hit all our clubs financially. As one chairman said to me, ‘it hits us in a poor summer when we don’t get income from activities like juniors in the evenings’, and another said that a total shutdown would have a huge impact on the 2021 season. Superficially, you might think that if there is no play there is no expense – but that is not the case. Work has been done on grounds, and more will be needed if we are to start playing; some clubs will have entered into contractual commitments for players before the crisis; there will be council tax and utility bills – and other expense to numerous to mention. All of this entered into on the expectation of normal income being received.
What we can do as a league is limited but we will take whatever action we can. We will not levy league fees, we will charge only for cricket balls actually used, we will share with clubs whatever ECB monies we receive, and we will continue to signpost them to whatever sources of help are available. Unlike some leagues, we are not rich – we are still only a new league, and the current crisis put an end to our remaining hopes of attracting a main sponsor for this season. We will keep our admin costs to a minimum. There will be no handbooks this year – we will maximise the use of our excellent website. Overall, we will do whatever we can to help our clubs.
This week I have participated in an ECB Premier League chairmen’s telekit, so I understand the wider picture in the recreational game and what other leagues are doing, and yesterday the Yorkshire Premier Leagues Management Board met via teleconference. I will continue to talk to colleagues in other leagues, to committee and club colleagues in our league, and I will ensure that we communicate as widely as possible what we are thinking and doing.
On a personal level, whilst I miss spending time with my son and his family, my occasional beer-related outings, and even going to the University, I consider myself very lucky. We have a daily four-mile round walk on the riverbank behind our house; Kirsty is working from home; I have plenty of rugby and cricket stuff to keep my mind active; I do shopping for ourselves and a couple of neighbours who are restricted to the house; I do housework and cooking; and I love reading – so I am fully occupied.
To end on a lighter note, I came to detest buzz words and phrases with a passion during my long years in the civil service. On a team I worked on in the mid-nineties, we had a list of words and phrases that were banned, and if used the speaker was heckled; I know of meetings even now where some participants have a list of words and phrases, tick them off as they are used during the meeting, and when they are all done, stand up and shout, ‘house!!’
We have a lovely language, full of interesting words, and there is no need to invent others or abandon phrases that have been used for years. So let us have a chat rather than a catch up, can we 'let people know' rather than give them a 'heads up', let’s keep something in mind rather than in our back pocket, and can we discuss something rather than unpack it – I could go on but you get the picture. Between us, I can’t even bring myself to say ‘guys’ – can you imagine Richie Benaud saying, “’Morning, Guys’??!!
So at least I was delighted that one good old-fashioned word has been resurrected in the current crisis – the last time I saw the word furlough was in a Colin Dexter novel in the mid-80s – and that we are using the proper term social distancing rather than some ghastly phrase that someone dreamed up in Whitehall. When I made a mildly complimentary remark about our director at work some twenty years ago I was derided by one of my colleagues for my obsequious unctuousness – that is a proper insult.
More in a fortnight, but until then, keep going, keep safe, and keep in touch with family and friends!
Photo: Hazy evening sunshine over the Humber estuary 2020
Share this post: