Rolls re-location means no Notts Premier League cricket in Dispatch district next season

NO MORE NPL -- elite cricket action on the Rolls-Royce Leisure Club sports field.
NO MORE NPL -- elite cricket action on the Rolls-Royce Leisure Club sports field.
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Elite cricket in the Notts Premier League (NPL) will not be played in the Dispatch district this summer for the first time for 12 years.

For on top of Papplewick and Linby’s relegation comes the news that Hucknall side, Rolls-Royce Leisure, are to play their home games out of town.

However, they insist that cricket will NOT be lost to the Rolls site, off Watnall Road, and that the club will NOT surrender their Hucknall identity.

“This is a move that has been geared up for the betterment of cricket at Rolls-Royce as a whole,” says club chairman John Birch.

Rolls, who have been revolutionised by ex-Notts CCC manager and captain Birch, finished runners-up in their debut season in the NPL in 2013.

At the end of the campaign, they applied to the league to re-locate to the Rolls base at Derby, which boasts superior facilities for cricket, including three pitches and outdoor nets.

They were initially turned down. But then most of the league’s management committee quit in the well-documented row about an alleged, illegal payment made by one of its teams, Mansfield Hosiery Mills.

Now, the newly-formed committee has given Rolls the go-ahead to move for the 2014 season, which starts on Saturday 26th April.

However, the club has been warned that they must find a new ground within Notts if they are to stay in the NPL from 2015.

The controversy has fuelled rumours that cricket is to be ditched at the Hucknall site -- in what will be the 60th anniversary year of the sport first being played there.

However, the club’s second team, five youth teams and new Sunday teams will continue to play at the ground. And both Birch and club secretary Sue Roberts stress Rolls will remain a Hucknall-based organisation.

“We have straightened out a dying club,” said Roberts. “It was in dire straits, and we have gone from strength to strength.

“We want to retain our Hucknall identity. We have local kids from local schools in the Chance To Shine programme, so we don’t want to move out of town.”

Cricket shares its sports-field space and facilities at the Hucknall site with football, creating obvious dilemmas when the seasons overlap.

Site landlords are understood to be concerned that if cricket is the dominant activity through the summer, not enough revenue is generated through the leisure club. And they are keen to place more emphasis on football.

Former Hucknall Town coach Jamie Brough has been appointed as director of football to boost activity, while the football floodlights are to be left up all summer for the first time, which means only one half of the cricket square can be used.

However, Birch, who is director of cricket for Rolls at Hucknall and Derby, insists: “We have no issues with the way cricket is being shaped.

“They have been very supportive of cricket at Hucknall. Colin Bancroft, Chris Mallard-Sibley and his staff have been brilliant with me. They are not anti-cricket at Hucknall.

“With my Rolls-Royce hat on, I have to listen to what they say as a company.

“Derby is a better ground for everybody, including the opposition teams who are going to play there.

“Our original application to re-locate was not dealt with properly. They thought we were going to move to Derby lock, stock and barrel, but that isn’t the case.

“It was just a question of speaking to the right people and explaining what is happening.

“I don’s see any issue over borders and boundaries. We won’t lose our Hucknall identity. It’s just that the big games will be at Derby.”

Nevertheless, Birch did not rule out a switch from the NPL to the Derbyshire Premier League in the future -- especially as Derby Rolls-Royce do not have a side good enough to compete at that level at present.

“Nothing is cast in stone,” he said. “It all depends on what we need to do.”

Such a move would seem likely because the NPL this week confirmed to the Dispatch that Rolls have been allowed to play at Derby for one season only.

“We have serious reservations about allowing a Nottinghamshire side to play outside the county,” said acting league secretary Ian Smith.

“This is not a situation that we support or endorse, but is one that has been forced on us.

“Rolls asked us to play at Derby because their ground at Hucknall is being more focused on football.

“There are issues with the floodlights and safety barriers that are actually on the cricket outfield, and this league has a set of minimum ground-standards.

“However, Rolls approached us, explaining that they are the tenants of the ground, so we reluctantly agreed to them moving for the 2014 season only.

“We are not happy about it, though, and they have been tasked with finding a new ground within Nottinghamshire for 2015.”