A brand new club has made quite an impression in Yorkshire, writes John Fuller.
The birth of a cricket club is almost unheard of nowadays. If the doom and gloom about recreational participation is to be believed, cricket clubs fold, they merge or they battle, tooth and nail, to retain members and put out teams.
But like Asterix and his fellow Gauls in the comic series, there are pockets of resistance, bucking the trend, if you hunt for them.
One such club is Brook-Walton Cricket Club, formed way, way back in the far mists of 2013.
Starting his own club had been the long-held ambition of local cricketer Richard Vigars, whose idea was to build a cricket club from the ground up with a relaxed family atmosphere and community at its heart.
“I wanted to get back to the way cricket used to be when we were growing up. Very hard, competitive cricket on the park but it had to incorporate the kids and the wives and the girlfriends and make it a fun environment for the family.”
So, how on earth do you go about creating a new cricket club? “First and foremost, I had to get people to buy into the dream of what the club was about. It wasn’t just a case of getting 11 friends, I wanted people with the same thought process, hopefully families that want to be here for the long haul.”
After some head-scratching and soul-searching, Richard came up with four words to signify what Brook-Walton would be all about: power, passion, commitment and fun.
The name of the new club, Brook-Walton CC, is a nod to the present and future. Their existing base, on Walton Lane, is council-owned and set to be flattened to make way for housing, with a new £1m sports complex earmarked off Shay Lane in nearby Walton village for 2017, on what is known locally as Brook Farm.
You can travel all over Yorkshire and bump into cricket clubs that date back to the 1800s. Clubs rightly cling to and champion their history but there’s equally something thrilling in cultivating a fresh identity, galvanising players to your cause and making history yourself.
Brook-Walton first XI made their debut in Division Three of the Pontefract and District Cricket League and won the division comfortably, before introducing a second XI for the 2015 season, who duly yomped to the Division Eight title while also snaffling the local Bob Martindale Memorial trophy for good measure.
Meanwhile, the firsts were promoted to Division One as champions after beating nearest rivals, Sandal, in the league, and also claimed the Dyson-Skidmore Trophy cup title, by squeaking past South Kirby by three runs in the final at Ackworth. So, between them, firsts and seconds did the ‘double-double’ in 2015.
Though most have patted Brook-Walton CC on the back and wished them well, their remarkable success hasn’t gone down well everywhere, as evidenced by grizzling rumours of players being paid. Those rumours are hotly denied.
Financial backing has come from local businesses, with Jaguar one of a host of companies to take billboards, while 38 sponsors opted to pay for a match ball.
“I made it very clear from the outset that we were an amateur club where everybody had to pull their weight and we got involved with local businesses and told them what we were trying to do,” Richard says.
Using the network of people at cricket clubs and their wider contacts is an absolute must. The question of sponsorship was therefore asked, but not expected, of any Brook-Walton players who have friends and family with their own businesses. That has helped build something remarkably successful very quickly.
Brook-Walton can already be proud of what they’ve achieved. Their success on the field has raised their profile, attracted press attention and generated player enquiries. And there are plans for an all-important junior section. Perhaps, just perhaps, this fledgling club has started something that people want to be a part of.
John Fuller is the man behind the excellent cricketyorkshire.com.