Cricket at Hucknall Rolls-Royce hit for six as ex-Notts Premier League club disbands

R.I.P. ROLLS-ROYCE CRICKET -- a summer scene that will be no more at the Rolls-Royce Leisure Club in Hucknall.
R.I.P. ROLLS-ROYCE CRICKET -- a summer scene that will be no more at the Rolls-Royce Leisure Club in Hucknall.

The highest-ranked cricket club in the Hucknall and Bulwell area has been hit for six.

After a traumatic year, blighted by the John Birch drugs scandal, crisis-hit Rolls-Royce Leisure have disbanded.

And the decision signals the end of cricket at the Rolls site, off Watnall Road -- exactly 60 years after the first match was played there.

“It is gone and that is it,” said club seceretary Sue Roberts this week. “It is a sad day, and after everything that has happened, I am upset and disgusted.

“There is no way back for cricket at Hucknall Rolls-Royce now. It grieves me because the sport has been played there for so many years.”

Rolls, who have been part of the elite Notts Premier League (NPL) for the last two summers, made the unanimous decision to fold at an emergency meeting attended by members.

It followed the rejection of a request to return to Hucknall -- after the club’s controversial re-location to Rolls’s Derby site, which led to their expulsion from the NPL at the end of the 2014 season because they no longer played within the Nottinghamshire boundaries.

“I received a letter from the Rolls-Royce Leisure Association saying there would be no cricket at the Hucknall site for the foreseeable future because of the financial implications,” said Roberts. “They said it would cost too much and would not be financially viable.”

Officials at Rolls Leisure have made a conscious decision to focus primarily on football at the Hucknall site, turning it into a centre of excellence and forging a pertnership with Notts County.

A brief statement on their behalf was issued by director of football Jamie Brough. It read:

“Given the strong relationship we have with the local community, confirmed at the recent Mirror Club awards, where we were voted Community Club Of The Year, and coupled with the fact that our football section has recently submitted an application with the FA to be awarded Community Status (the highest accolade a football club can achieve), it was deemed inappropriate to continue to associate ourselves with Rolls-Royce Leisure Cricket Club.”

The disbandment represents a dramatic demise for the cricket club, who were on the crest of a wave only a year ago.

Former Notts CCC manager Birch had guided them to the Gunn And Moore South Notts League title and promotion for the first time to the NPL where they were runners-up in their debut season. The switch to Derby was made with chairman Birch’s blessing, in search of better facilities, after he had been appointed director of cricket at both Rolls sites. The NPL warned they would not be allowed to stay there for more than a season, but attempts to find a new ground failed and then came the bombshell of Birch’s court case in which he was convicted for growing cannabis plants.

As he started a suspended prison-sentence and severed all links with Rolls, the cricket club found themselves without a ground, without a leader and without an identity.

Talks with the Notts Cricket Board tried to find a solution. But the club needed not only a new home but also a new league to play in -- and a drop in standard would have meant the loss of most of their players, keen to stay in the NPL.

“Many decided they didn’t want a part of it,” said Roberts. “The members accepted the situation even before we got to the vote,” said Roberts. “Everyone voted for goodbyes.

“Apparently, we elected to remove ourselves from Hucknall, which was not what I was led to believe at the time.

“Rolls Leisure have done what they have to do to make a living. It’s business. By renting the site to football, they are guaranteed a better income than from cricket.

“But it grieves me when you think of all the effort and work that has been put in, and all the help we have given to kids in the community who are interested in cricket.

“It’s all a case of the tide turning, and rats leaving a sinking ship.”