THE coronavirus pandemic has had wide-reaching effects across our society, and that extends to the nation’s cricket clubs.

The Chard & Ilminster News spoke to James Fitzpatrick, of Chard Cricket Club, and Craig Rice, of Ilminster Cricket Club, about the impact of the ECB’s suspension of all grassroots cricket until further notice.

Both clubs were due to have teams competing in the West of England Premier League and Somerset Cricket League - starting in May - but that has been thrown into doubt.

“My personal feeling is that there won’t be any club cricket this year,” said Fitzpatrick.

“If the season was to restart [later this summer], a lot of older cricketers and umpires - aged 70 and above - would not be able to make it to games.”

If 2020 was to be a year without cricket, it would have big financial implications for clubs.

Rice said: “These are really difficult times for everyone... financially, a lot of clubs are going to be hit by this.

“We do have a bit of revenue coming in from the off-season [as the clubhouse is open], but we rely massively on our bar crowd over the summer.

“It depends how long this goes on for, but it will be difficult, and we’ve looked to see how we can scale back on our overheads.”

Rice said the club’s plans to sign an overseas player had been scrapped, and added: “Cricket is such an expensive sport with the ground maintenance you need to do.

“In the last couple of years we’ve spent around £7,000 on two new mowers, and to resharpen them is another £1,000.

“We hope we will have enough money to get us through until we’re playing again.”

And although that ground maintenance can take place, as Fitzpatrick explains, it’s also been complicated by the government’s social distancing measures.

He said: “We can keep the grass under control but a lot of our volunteers are over the age of 70, so that makes it tricky.

“It’s down to the younger members of the club to pull together, but we can’t have too many people at the ground at one time.

“The virus seems to stay on metal longer than other materials, so we’re going to have to give the mowers and other equipment a rigorous clean to stop it spreading when different people use the equipment.”

Fitzpatrick is “confident that we have enough funds to cover our outgoings”, as a lot of the cricket-related expenditure will drop, and also believes that the effect on club membership will be minimal.

He said: “I don’t think people will fall out of love with cricket, and they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder!

“The problem is for youngsters, who lose one year in their development cycle.”

Rice added: “It’s the young players I feel most sorry for.

“We have so much youth cricket going on at the club and it’s all come to a halt.

“My youngest son is 12 - that’s the age when you’re just getting to understand the game, so it’s a massive blow for them.”

Since these interviews were conducted, the England & Wales Cricket Board has announced a £20 million package to support recreational cricket - read more about that here.