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Kings of Anglia Issue 10 Magazine Offer

Robbo to be remembered

PUBLISHED: 14:57 14 June 2002 | UPDATED: 12:05 03 March 2010

CRICKET: Suffolk county secretary Norman Atkins fears for the future of club cricket - unless a new generation of administrators can be found.

Debenham are the most recent club to fold in the county, while the long-established Felixstowe club had no option than to disband their first XI in April after a mass exodus of players.

SUFFOLK county secretary Norman Atkins fears for the future of club cricket – unless a new generation of administrators can be found.

Debenham are the most recent club to fold in the county, while the long-established Felixstowe club had no option than to disband their first XI in April after a mass exodus of players.

Atkins emphasised that it is not just a problem in this neck of the woods. "At England and Wales Cricket Board meetings the matter has received urgent attention, and an initiative has been put in place to attract new administrators," he said.

Atkins' own club, Ipswich-based St Margaret's, has disbanded their Under-13 side this summer because of a lack of players.

"We did a trawl of the local schools, but only ended up with four or five players," added Atkins, a former Minor Counties umpire.

"There is no doubt that the health of the game has been affected by a lack of cricket being played in state schools over the last two decades and clubs have to work that much harder to secure their future.

"The ones that run Under-13 and Under-15 sides are on course to survive for the next two or three years until hopefully more youngsters can be attracted to the game at school.

"But more of a worry is the lack of administrators. The majority of clubs in Suffolk are run by people who have been in the job for a long while.

"When they come to hand over, there is a grave danger that no one will be around who wants to take on the responsibility.

"It is a very big problem and one that is giving genuine concern. Unless we find a new generation of administrators, we could carry on losing a steady stream of clubs every year.

"If a club is being run well then it will survive. Players can be attracted and they will have a better chance of staying if everything is running smoothly."

Atkins hears the same worries from his opposite numbers as he goes around the Minor Counties circuit with Suffolk.

So it is not just a local conundrum and not just restricted to cricket.

Virtually every county football association is now run by full time salaried staff, as these days it is impossible to find volunteers to give up huge chunks of their spare time.

"Times change," continued Atkins. "I was hearing the other day that athletics is suffering as well, with a lack of administrators drastically reducing chances youngsters have of making a mark in the sport.

"When I look around and see the same club representatives year-in, year-out at our annual general meeting it adds to the fears.

"Unless we find a new generation from somewhere then club cricket as we know it has to be in jeopardy."

Atkins is retired but still leads an active life with keen interests including football, speedway and his allotment.

But he still finds time to keep Suffolk cricket on a firm footing. "I certainly hope that cricket will never be run in Suffolk by paid officials," he said.

Apart from clubs folding and others struggling to field teams every week, another concern is the number of games conceded this year – more than in other seasons.

It has already made a farce of the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship Sunday Challenge with some clubs having conceded more games than they have played.

"A lot of this has been put down to the football World Cup and I agree this must be part of the problem," said Atkins.

"I can remember USA beating England in the World Cup in the Fifties, but we did not know about it until the newspaper came through the door the following morning.

"These days, we can see history being made live on our television screens and we want to be there – I am no exception."

Atkins confirmed that Suffolk cricket at county level is as well organised as anywhere. And with the highest number of qualified coaches in the county's history there is room for optimism for continued improvement on the field.

"At St Margaret's we have seven players who have completed coaching courses and we are currently in a position where we can run two Under-15 sides.

"This should hold us in good stead and a number of Ipswich-based clubs are in similar positions. But without administrators – and people prepared to give up their time to work with the youngsters – the future still looks bleak.

"At county level, ex-Minor Counties player Bobby Flack is to run the Suffolk Under-17 side. Bobby is a well qualified coach and this is another step forward for us.

"And we almost beat a first class county for the first time this year.

"Northamptonshire were reeling at one time before winning by one wicket in the Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy at Bury St Edmunds a fortnight ago."

Suffolk begin their Minor Counties Championship season with a three-day game at Jesmond against Northumberland that starts on Sunday, June 23.

Their first home match starts on July 1 against Cumberland at Bury.

But at the moment, the game in Suffolk requires folk just as handy with a pen as with a bat or ball.

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