Hucknall’s top cricket team expelled from Notts Premier League

HIT FOR SIX -- cricket at the Rolls-Royce Leisure Club sports ground in Hucknall.
HIT FOR SIX -- cricket at the Rolls-Royce Leisure Club sports ground in Hucknall.

Hucknall’s highest-ranked cricket club has been sensationally expelled from the Notts Premier League (NPL) over their controversial ground-switch.

Now, with chairman John Birch stepping down because of a drugs case in court hanging over his head, Rolls are in turmoil and face a fight for their future.

“I don’t know what is going to happen,” admitted club secretary Sue Roberts. “It is very sad for cricket.”

The expulsion revolves around the decision at the start of the season to move the club’s playing base from the Hucknall site at the Rolls-Royce Leisure Club, off Watnall Road, to the company’s main site at Derby.

NPL officials warned that they would be allowed to play outside the county for only one season and were tasked with finding a new ground by the end of this summer.

However, that deadline has now passed, and Rolls must quit the league they only won promotion to two years ago.

A ststement, issued by the NPL, read:

“Rolls-Royce Leisure Cricket Club were allowed to play their 2014 fixtures in Derby by the management committee after advising that their Watnall Road facility would not be available, contrary to assurances provided to the league by the club in September 2013.

This decision was made reluctantly by the committee to prevent disruption to the fixture programme.

The club were allowed to play in Derby in 2014 only on the strict understanding that they confirmed to the committee by the end of June which one of the three following options they would choose for 2015 and beyond:

1. Return to Watnall Road, Hucknall.

2. Find a suitable alternative home within Nottinghamshire.

3. Leave the league.

Despite an extension to the deadline and substantial offers of support in finding an alternative location and preparing it for Notts Premier League cricket, the club did not choose any of these options and therefore, reluctantly, the committee will not be inviting the club to take part in the NPL for the 2015 season.

This decision has been endorsed by both the Nottinghamshire Cricket Board and Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club.”

Added NPL spokesman Mick Aplin: “We gave Rolls every opportunity to continue participating in the league.

“They had a year’s grace to play at Derby and were given three options. They chose none of the options, so they have excluded themselves really.”

At the time of the switch, Birch, who was director cricket at both sites, put on a brave face, insisting it would mean better facilities.

But privately, many connected to the club, past and present, were seething. They felt cricket was being squeezed out in favour of football at the Hucknall site.

Leisure club bosses believed more income could be generated for the cash-strapped on-site social club from football than cricket, even through the summer, and they appointed a new director of football in ex-Hucknall Town coach Jamie Brough. They even left up football floodlights and safety barriers on the sports ground, making it virtually impossible for senior cricket to be played there.

Now it can be seen that severing Hucknall links was a disaster for the cricket club.

As well as being kicked out, the first team, who were NPL runners-up in 2013, finished as low as eighth this time. The second eleven, who also moved to Derby, finished bottom of their division in the Gunn And Moore South Notts League and were relegated.

The club’s two Sunday teams had to resign from their league because they couldn’t play at Hucknall, and their youth teams had to play all their matches away from home.

To cap a year to forget, ex-Notts CCC manager Birch (59), who has masterminded a remarkable revival in Rolls’s cricketing fortunes, was hauled before the courts on a charge of producing cannabis plants. Son Dan, who is first-team captain, confirmed this week that his father has stood down as chairman until the case, which is due to be heard next month, is completed.

Meanwhile secretary Roberts plans to hold talks in the coming weeks with Rolls-Royce Leisure officials and other key parties before seeking the views of all cricket club members and then calling an extraordinary general meeting.