Work can be needed to clean up and repair sports grounds in any part of the year, but there is no more important time for a cricket ground to have such work done than when the start of the season approaches.
For the English professional game, the start of the 2023 season is coming pretty early this year, with the opening round of fixtures in the LV County Championship taking place on April 6th. No doubt many players and fans will hope the warm sunshine that has graced the start of the month will stick around, lest there be some very cold fingers contributing to some stinging dropped catches.
While the players out in the middle get back in action at grounds like Lords, Old Trafford, the Ageas Bowl, Sophia Gardens and Headingley – all international venues with large ground staffs to look after top class facilities throughout the year – club sides will mostly have a little longer to wait before their players don the whites again and get the season underway.
Ground staff at clubs, who will be part-time or even voluntary, will now be busy getting everything ready may have much to do; over the winter the club’s outdoor facilities will have been suffering plenty of wind and rain, rust and rot, plus the inevitably higher risk of encroachment from trespassers who may decide to steal or damage property.
Indeed, last October saw Burton Cricket Club in Staffordshire affected by an incursion by vandals that saw the clubhouse wrecked, leading to fears the club might have to close.
Some may find there is much more that needs to be done than usual, which is where hiring the professionals who can offer sports facility services could be critical in getting everything up to scratch for the players who want to enjoy the game at weekends, the youngsters practising in the evenings, or the fans, scorers and others watching on from beyond the boundary.
Indeed, some issues may even extend beyond those involved in or supporting the game. Many grounds will need good nets around the boundary to protect big sixes causing the ball to fly into neighbouring gardens and potentially cause damage to homes and property.
This is not just a matter of courtesy; occasionally this issue can cause severe problems between clubs and their neighbours, even when the ground has been there long before the houses and those choosing to live there have had no reason not to know they were next to a cricket ground.
An extreme example of this was that of Colehill Cricket Club in Dorset, which was almost forced to stop playing senior cricket after 118 years of play, under pressure from entitled neighbours. Thankfully, an appeal raised the £35,000 it needed to install 25 ft high nets, with vocal support coming from current and former England Test captains Ben Stokes and Michael Vaughan.
Not every club will face the challenges that the likes of Colehill CC did, or endure the sort of calamities during the close season that befell Burton. But if you need more work to get your ground up to scratch, now is the time to do so before the first ball of the new season is bowled.