A Journey Just Beginning – Shotley Peninsula Cricket Club

August 26, 2017

Lee Mandley, Secretary and Founder of Shotley Peninsula CC (SPCC), shares his story about how SPCC started back in July 2012 and the progress made over the last few years in building this club in rural Suffolk.

A set of cricket stumps in a garden at a family barbeque in July 2012 was the catalyst for the birth of rapidly growing cricket club in rural Suffolk. Now into our 5th season, Shotley Peninsula Cricket Club boasts over 100 members from three Men’s teams, two tours, a Ladies Team, Girls under 15 and 13 teams, and a blossoming juniors section for 5-11 year olds.

As my father, two brothers, some friends and I tried to skittle each other out during a garden game of Kwik-cricket, we found ourselves discussing how we would love to play some competitive cricket. As a group we had made many visits to Lords and Trent Bridge, were keen watchers of the game and enjoyed playing at school, but none of us had ever played ‘club cricket’.

In truth, we were footballers looking for something to do in the summer months, but as with any successful journey it needed a first step (and a lot of luck).

After a bout of text messages, we found that we had a strong number of local lads who were really interested in playing. The basis was there. We had the players; we just needed somewhere to play, equipment to play with and some opposition to play against. We approached a few local venues on the Peninsula that already had established cricket squares but found we were either priced out or not wanted but we did not give up and subsequently, we were repaid. Holbrook Academy had recently been approached on behalf of the Suffolk Cricket Board regarding the Chance to Shine (C2S) initiative – a forward-thinking initiative that looks to connect school cricket to clubs. When we contacted the Academy, it was beneficial to both parties. The timing was perfect and with the immediate help of Rob Jones from the Suffolk Cricket Board, and Dave Hall (formerly of Holbrook Academy), we were preparing to play cricket at the Academy in 2013. However, the jubilation was short-lived. The facilities at the school were old, out-dated and not suitable or safe for competitive adult cricket and there was no hope of a grass wicket due the demands of time and money but there was up to £4,000 funding available from C2S for a new artificial match-play strip. We just had to come up with the other £3,000… Persistence and patience were key. I now find it odd when people say they don’t have time for these kind of pursuits. It didn’t take long to collect contact emails of the local parish councils, the district council and other sources, and they all received the same plea for donations of funding. Persistence and patience were important to chase up the opportunities, to answer further questions etc., but it was all worth it as we soon received the money required on behalf of Babergh District Council David Woods, and some of the local parishes. The pitch was laid, and with more emails, we inherited equipment to start up, kindly donated from friendly neighbouring clubs. We went on to play 17 T20 evening friendlies in the summer of 2013, with 22 members taking part (many of whom were experiencing club cricket for the first time) and importantly, teenagers from the school coming into our newly formed club.

2014 saw the start of girls coaching at the school on behalf of C2S to feed into the club. We developed a formal committee and a 5 year plan. We also decided to enter the Ipswich Inter-Firm League, a form of T20 cricket played on Tuesday nights, and then pursue more friendlies and try some weekend matches before diving into weekend cricket head first, and an amazing tour to the Isle of White. We received sponsorship from Coes of Ipswich, had a logo designed and started to grow our image. Again, patience was key. If I could pass on anything from our growth and experience, it is to grow organically, naturally, and don’t over-stretch yourselves. In 2015, our Ladies and Girls sections played their first matches as part of the club and the Men entered Sunday league cricket after experiencing Sunday friendlies in 2014. We had also accumulated enough money through membership fees (and fines from ducks and drops) to purchase all of our own club equipment with carefully planned club finances. A slow and steady, patient approach was the underlying principle to our growth (and too often, our batting) to this point.

By 2016, we went on our second tour, this time to North Devon, and our Men’s team had recruited enough members to warrant entering a 3rd league, a Friday night T20 format. It was this summer where we found we were growing beyond the means of the current facility and aspirations of a home to call our own with a grass wicket beckoned. Lady Luck has a curious relationship with timing and once again we found ourselves benefiting from it. Well known and vastly experienced groundsman Kester Clarke, had heard of our progress as a club and contacted me regarding a possible move to Woolverstone Girls School with plans for a grass wicket, but this was out of our reach financially. Kester and I weren’t prepared to give up on establishing a real cricket ground on the Peninsula after over a decades’ hiatus though, and we identified Green Lane in Tattingstone as a potential venue; one of Kester’s previous grounds where he built a club and reputation as one of the best squares in the county. As luck would have it, Tattingstone’s Playing Field Committee were also looking for a cricket club to make Green Lane a home and it was the start of the next leg of our journey as a club.

With well managed finances over the previous 4 seasons and with the stewardship of Mr Clarke, we began laying the foundations for the square in September 2016. By April 2017, we were playing league cricket on a grass wicket on a square with 10 rather impressive pitches. What did it take? A solid and regularly reviewed business plan, well managed financial accounts, LOTS of social media posts, patience and persistence, a well selected committee filled with members who want to lend a hand, and help. We have never been afraid to ask for help and it’s amazing how easily it comes in cricket. Rob Jones and his team at the county cricket board have always given us their support and guidance when we ask for it; Kester Clarke has helped us resurrect one of the best squares in the county because we asked; we managed to get equipment and games to get us started because we asked; we have received funding because we asked (and asked, and asked some more). We were under no illusion of the huge change in demands from using an artificial pitch (no maintenance at all) to having our own ground and grass square but again, we applied patience and resilience and soon found we were in receipt of £10,000 of funding from Collin’s Skip Hire of Tattingstone. This has enabled us to purchase the necessary equipment for maintenance and the upkeep of a cricket ground and as such, has allowed us to thrive in our new home. We now have over 100 members and 2017 has also seen the launch of our juniors section, using the ECB’s All Stars initiative to get us going.

The most important aspect of our exponential growth though – we have an identity that we have built and is well recognised locally. We are a local club for local people. That’s not to say we are exclusive; not at all. What it does mean though is that the fundamental reason we have players and members who are happy and want to help us progress is that they have something for them, a club that is at the heart of the community and the local community is the beating heart of the club.

We are proud of what we have achieved in such a small amount of time and we are confident we will continue to grow, offering competitive cricket for children in the near future, as well as senior Saturday cricket, but with all of that in mind, we will continue going about our business with patience, persistence, and hopefully some more luck (especially for my batting average).

The opportunities are out there. Cricket is not dying sport, it just needs us to share it with our communities.

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