A former player for Accrington CC in Lancashire, where he made his first XI debut alongside West Indian great Wes Hall, David Lloyd is now president of the club where he first learned the game. Between duties in the Sky Sports commentary box, he’s also a regular spectator at Bramhall CC in Cheshire and Easingwold CC in North Yorkshire, as well as being a patron of the Lancashire League. Arguably more than any other figure of his profile, he takes a keen interest in all levels of the game and cares deeply about the future of recreational cricket. Here he tells AOC all about it.
ON PREMIER LEAGUES
The ECB are really keen to revamp the structures – and they have done in many areas. My massive view is that premier leagues work. There’s been a resistance in Lancashire, where I’m based, to embrace premier leagues – because there’s that many empire builders (‘Not on my watch’ sort of thing) and they’re a bloody nuisance. But it’s there for all to see that it needs revamping in certain areas. The Central Lancashire League, the Lancashire League and the Ribbersdale League, in my opinion – and it’s only my opinion – should amalgamate into three divisions with promotion and relegation and a premier league at the top of it. Why? Because it will improve the standard of cricket – as simple as that. The evidence is overwhelming throughout the country that standards at premier league level are improving. Facilities are getting better as well, though we’d like more money to develop them.
ON WOMEN’S CLUB CRICKET
I’ve got a watching brief on women’s cricket. The north-west is one of the most heavily populated for cricket and for any sport – but I don’t see much women’s cricket. I think there needs to be a real push, and it needs financial help and professional knowhow. I’m president at Accrington and I’d expect somebody from ECB to come and say ‘Why don’t you put some women’s cricket on?’ and I’d say ‘You come and help me do it – show me what to do. Where’s me coaches? Give me my expertise.’ I think we could do a lot more.
ON FALLING PARTICIPATION
Why are numbers down? Falling participation is a red herring. In all sports, team sports especially, it is mainly down, and it’s only because there’s choice. You can do what you want these days – you can go to the Trafford Centre and shop all day, it’s so easy to get to the coast… There are many, many other things you can do on a weekend. I’m not too worried about participation, because most cricket clubs will say, ‘We are inundated with kids. Fifty kids, 80 kids, 120 kids – we can’t cope with them!’ You get to 16 and there’s a big drop-off, as boys and girls find other things to do. They’re finding boys and girls! I don’t think it’s anything new at all – from when I played. I played club cricket at Accrington with all my mates, and they got to 15, 16 and thought, ‘Na, I’m not doing that.’ I’ve got a grandson who was a nice little player, he got to 16 – he’s an apprentice engineer, works away from home – he doesn’t play cricket. It’s choice.
So anybody that says it’s all about terrestrial television, my hair stands on end. I don’t know where you’re coming from! If you want to watch sport, get Sky. It’ll cost you three pints of lager a week. It’s nothing to do with any television company that there’s less participation. Look at football – people watch the Premier League on Sky! I used to play football in the local combination and there were five divisions. There are two now. People go and watch the game. Motorway networks have dragged everything closer. I can get to Manchester in 30 minutes from Accrington, go and watch United or City. It used to take an hour and a half! There’s so much choice.
ON AMALGAMATING CLUBS
I’ll use my own example, as it’s what I know. Accrington is one town in a district called Hyndburn – there’s 35,000 people live there. There are still seven cricket clubs, all trying to turn three teams out on a Saturday and a Sunday. It’s ridiculous. There needs to be amalgamation! You can’t do it in this day and age. Look at Australia: there are great facilities at clubs, and lots of people trying to get into the teams. There are not many teams in that area, and you have to go training to get into them.
ON HIS ENDURING LOVE FOR THE CLUB GAME
I just find going to watch the local club a very natural thing to do. When I’ve got time off, myself and my wife will put a little picnic up and go and watch, we might go for an hour – we’ll take the dog with us. (You get some silly clubs who don’t let the dog in! ‘I just want to come and watch, and here’s my dog – on a lead.’ ‘You can’t come in with a dog’. ‘Alright, see you later! I’ll go and spend my money somewhere else!’) It’s just natural for me. ‘We’ll go here, we’ll do this… oh, I’m just popping down to Easingwold for an hour’ – go and sit with my friends, chew the fat.
At Accrington I’d meet up with guys who I’ve grown up with and played with. At Easingwold it’s just me mates. Lovely little ground, people sat round in their deck chairs, bit of tennis going on. The sun comes in, you go and get a cup of tea from the bar – they don’t charge you to go in but there’s a raffle. It works.
ON THE GLORY DAYS
When I was growing up at Accrington my influence getting into the game was Wesley Hall – the West Indies opening bowler alongside Charlie Griffith. He was our professional. Bobby Simpson and Eddie Barlow were as well. These great players! Those guys looked after you as a young player with a bit of talent. And the grounds were full! They were great days, that got you hooked on cricket. I used to collect autographs of the great professionals on the league circuit.
The Lancashire League later had Michael Holding, Viv Richards, Allan Donald, Shane Warne. One of the big stumbling blocks now is getting a visa for a player. It’s not that easy to do these days – but it develops his game and he gets involved with the club.
It also gives the competition an edge. These days the crowds aren’t the same – you might play to 200 here and there, whereas in the glory days you’d have a thousand-odd every week.
Barrackers, the guys on the side, have been priceless over the years in club and league cricket. Keith Barker, now of Warwickshire, played club cricket for Enfield in the Lancashire League. There were his dad Keith, and his brothers Andy Barker and Gary Barker, all playing on the same team. A dog ran on the field and stopped play. Big Roland, chief barracker, staggered out of the bar and slurred: ‘Get that dog off there! There’s enough barkers on that field,’ then staggered back into the bar. That’s one of the best barracks there’s ever been. Absolutely brilliant.
ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CLUB AND COUNTY CRICKET
I have plenty of evidence that league cricketers in Lancashire have no affinity with the county club; no interest, not bothered. In some places more can be done to establish better links. The clubs and leagues used to play a match at Old Trafford against the county. Doesn’t happen anymore, but it should happen. There’s also still work to be done to integrate Asian cricketers into club and league cricket. There a lot of areas that can be worked on and I’ve no doubt that there are lots of people doing lots of good work.
ON HIS OPTIMISM FOR THE FUTURE OF RECREATIONAL CRICKET
I’m very optimistic about the game. We’ll always produce cricketers. You look at the England team now, they all will have started in club and league cricket.
ON HIS MESSAGE TO CLUB CRICKETERS
Enjoy the game. Don’t get too uptight. I’ve got a couple of lads from Accrington, they get so uptight and they get banned from time to time, they’re striving and they can’t accept that they’ve not done that well. Relax. Enjoy it. It’s only cricket…!