Cricketers battle to give club a future

HUNDREDS have rallied to defend a popular cricket club after it was expelled from a top league in a row over an unpaid £75 fine and after complaints about the ground.

Manningham Mills Cricket Club, Bradford. Below: Bradford West MP George Galloway

Officials at 150-year-old Manningham Mills Cricket Club have been embroiled in a season-long row with the JCT600 Bradford Cricket League over a number of issues which came to a head earlier this month when members of the league voted 17-7 to expel Manningham Mills.

The row began over an unpaid £75 fine for the late return of score sheets; the fine was increased several times until it reached almost £500 and was only paid in full earlier this week.

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But for members of the Bradford Cricket League the money came too late.

Bradford West MP George Galloway

The members were said to be angry at certain aspects of the ground, including the previous lack of a full-time groundsman, an unpainted sight screen and the condition of the wicket.

More than 100 players and supporters turned up at the ground on Thursday evening to demonstrate their passion for the club and determination to overturn the expulsion.

They have been backed by Bradford West MP George Galloway who is attempting to resolve the dispute.

The Respect MP said: “I don’t pretend to know all of the facts of this matter, nor am I saying the club has been blameless. There have been problems, particularly over the payment of fines, but as I understand it all of the money owed has been paid to the league.

“I am also concerned that the club don’t appear to have been given a proper opportunity to speak in their own defence at the recent meeting which expelled them. That’s not natural justice.

“I am more than happy to try to broker a satisfactory conclusion between the club and the league.

“Expelling this club with a very long history and some outstanding alumni would be a tragedy. Let’s get round the table and work out a solution which gives Manningham Mills a future and which protects and strengthens the league.

“Everyone knows that Manningham is a severely disadvantaged area, effectively destroying a notable community asset would be a tragedy. Let’s ensure that does not happen.”

Former player Hanzaq Mir said the season’s runs statistics proved there was nothing wrong with the ground.

Mr Mir claimed that “preconceptions” about the Manningham area may have played some part in the decision to expel the club.

In a statement, a League spokesman said: “As a consequence of a number of serious issues which have arisen during the 2013 season, involving Manningham Mills Cricket Club’s breach of the Bradford Cricket League’s rules and standards, including non-payment of dues to the league, the remaining 25 constituent clubs, affiliated to the League, were asked to consider Manningham Mills’ future membership.

“At an Extraordinary General Meeting on September 19, 2013 a representative from each of the constituent clubs was requested to vote on a resolution as to whether Manningham Mills should remain members of the league.

“Having regard to all the facts, including representation from Manningham Mills, the result confirmed by 17 to seven with one abstention that Manningham Mills Cricket Club’s membership of the League should be discontinued, with immediate effect. The ballot was limited to member clubs only, the Management Board did not participate or offer any recommendation as to how the clubs should vote.”

A petition in support of the club has attracted more than 100 names and a Facebook page has over 600 supporters.