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The Pitch: Why the pub must be the post-match hub

by Jack Stockdale 3 minute read

Jack Stockdale, secretary of a small village team in rural Yorkshire, calls for more clubs to attach themselves to a local pub to strengthen community relations.

The local pub and the village cricket club: a match made in heaven. The local watering hole can provide you with that warm embrace after a cold April match, a homely haven after a hammering, or a lively shindig after a dramatic win. Why go anywhere else after a hard-fought six hours on the field?

As a stereotypically inadequate village cricketer, my pub record is greater than my record with the bat – I’ve drunk with every archetypal village cricketer in the book. Many people bemoan the association drinking has with sport, but there’s nothing better than the togetherness you foster over a post-match pint. I’m not saying you should drink 12 of them – have a lemonade and lime if alcohol is not your bag – but this social aspect is every bit as important as the game itself.

My little club, Great Habton CC in North Yorkshire, gets more players on the promise of a pint than the prospect of a day’s play. Our club is twinned with a local pub called The Grapes, about 100 yards away, and is chock-full of ex-players, fans and sponsors. “You’re nowhere near as good as we were in the Eighties!” is routinely hollered across the bar – I bet they were equally as hopeless, but these types of exchanges are the reason I play cricket. The pub is what makes our little club a great club. It’s the sense of belonging it forges – being part of something historic and bigger than ourselves.

Our club is synonymous with the pub – players travel in from all over but the pub glues them to the local community. I’ve never lived in the village but can talk to anyone around the bar. They provide free food after the games and Habton is now an attractive opposition – if only for the feed after!

I’ve personally never quite understood clubhouses. Sure, you can host events and make a bit behind the bar, but at what cost? They never have the same feel as the village pub, or the same interaction with the community. They’re closed off – often members only. That’s a massive mistake. The pub certainly helps us to recruit and retain players.

“Where to, lads?” I ask the oppo after an away game. “We usually just have one here,” they say, while gesturing towards the clubhouse. The hardy few are left to have one flat pint of Carling before retreating to our own village pub.

Cricket has always been a game about people, and attaching yourself to a pub where you can meet and interact with the local community is greatly undervalued. Give us a £1 million grant and we’d still refuse to build a bar in the clubhouse. We’d still be wandering down to the same pub we have done for generations, and we’d love to see more clubs join us.

Jack Stockdale is secretary and evening league captain of Great Habton CC, and also secretary of Lockton CC and the Ryedale Beckett League.

Read the previous article in this series: Incentivise teams to make the right umpiring decisions

This article first appeared in issue 22 of Wisden Cricket Monthly. Subscribe here. Illustration by Joe Provis

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