Norfolk cricket clubs in crisis as UEA stops use of pitches

Cricket clubs around Norwich are facing a crisis after the University of East Anglia said they could no longer use the pitches at Colney Lane playing fields.

In a letter seen by the Evening News, the UEA, which owns the pitches, told five community cricket clubs they could no longer accept bookings due to cuts in funding and stretched resources.

And now the clubs, including Civil Service, Rackheath, Colney, and Great Melton's B and C teams, face the difficult task of finding a new ground before the start of the cricket season in three months' time.

Secretary for Norfolk Cricket League, Tim Porter, said: 'I really do not know what we can do. The clubs have been playing there for years and there has been very little warning.

'The teams are already struggling for numbers and I am worried that this could be the final nail in the coffin for them.'

Director of Physical Education and Sport at the UEA Sportspark, Keith Nicholls, sent a letter to the five clubs on January 3.

It stated that the three pitches at Colney Lane could only be used by university students in future, and they would no longer be accepting outside bookings. He advised the clubs to look for a new grounds.

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However, clubs fear the chances of them finding a new location is slim, with cricket pitches taking years of cultivation before they are suitable to play on.

In the letter, Mr Nicholls said: 'The university has been subject to cuts in funding both this year and for future years. As a result, the focus is on identifying and maintaining core services for university members.

'Staff resources are stretched and with the current budgetary pressures, it is not possible to maintain the current level of service for Colney Lane.

'The income for community use is far short of that required to cover the maintenance and staffing costs. In the past, we have been able to provide this support for community use, but after review, we have concluded with some sadness that the pressures on the budget cannot be ignored.'

The Norfolk Cricket League plan to discuss the future of the clubs at its monthly committee meeting on January 31.

Meanwhile, the club secretary of Great Melton cricket club, John Burdett, said that the setback to B and C teams would impact on the development of dozens of youngsters who play cricket for them each season.

However, Kieron Tuck of the Norfolk Cricket Board, said that he was hopeful that discussions with the UEA could continue and a resolution could be found.