Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Cricket club refused ground debt write off

HENLEY Cricket Club has been refused a request for a debt to be written off.

HENLEY Cricket Club has been refused a request for a debt to be written off.

The club borrowed £200,000 from Henley Town Council towards the purchase of the Brakspear Ground in Matson Drive in 2005 and still owes £56,000.

The loan was given at three per cent interest so the club must pay charges of £1,680 per year on the current balance.

The club says it struggles to pay this amount and afford good quality equipment, so it asked the council to scrap or reduce the debt instead of awarding it a grant.

But the council’s finance strategy and management committee turned down the request and instead agreed to investigate ways of helping the club attract additional funding.



The club wants to buy new equipment so that it can carry out its own ground maintenance instead of hiring a contractor, which it says would save money in the long-term.

The cost would be £45,800, including an £18,500 ground roller and a £8,700 scarifier as well as £6,300 to extend the driveway and lay permeable concrete outside the clubhouse to prevent the ground becoming muddy in winter. David Winter, the club’s fund-raising chairman, told councillors: “Over the years we’ve found ourselves mending many things we really ought to replace.

“We play at a very high level in the county so this investment is in our interest and we’ve been putting it off for far too long.

“Quite frankly, we’re up against a wall now. We know things are very tight, which is why we suggest that looking at the loan balance could be one way to help us.”

Mayor Lorraine Hillier and Councillor Dylan Thomas supported clearing the debt.

But Councillor Will Hamilton, chairman of the committee, said he would prefer to help the club negotiate better prices for the equipment or obtain a grant from South Oxfordshire District Council.

He said: “The club is a fantastic facility that attracts all age groups and both sexes and it is a centrepiece of Henley, even if it’s not technically in the town. However, I wouldn’t be open to renegotiating the loan if it can be avoided.”

Councillor David Nimmo Smith said: “The cricket club is a fantastic asset but we budget for the loan [repayments] and scrapping it could set an unwanted precedent. Other people who owe us money might then come asking for the same thing.”

Meanwhile, the committee agreed to consider awarding Henley Town Football Club a £10,000 grant towards ground improvements.

The club, which is based at the Invesco Perpetual Triangle off Mill Lane, Henley, is currently second in the Uhlsport Hellenic League Division One East and will be promoted to the Hellenic Premier Division if it finishes the season in the top two.

However, its ground doesn’t meet Football Association standards for the higher division and the club will not be allowed to go up unless it makes improvements, including creating a covered shelter for at least 100 standing spectators and several uncovered paved areas around the pitch.

The FA says the work must be completed by the start of the new season.

Tony Kingston, the club’s secretary, told councillors the club couldn’t afford the work.

He said its weekly lottery had raised only £12,000 since it was launched in 2010.

He said: “We do some collections at the clubhouse bar but it’s very much out of the way. Unlike some clubs, we don’t get passing trade from people who just use it as their local pub.

“All our money comes in on match days so if the weather’s bad you don’t get many people at all and sometimes a match is called off.

“We are very keen to move forward but we need to improve our facilities or we just can’t get any higher.”

Cllr Nimmo Smith said: “I’m glad you’re under better financial control than previously and that you are now showing ambition.”

Cllr Hillier said: “This deserves support because it’s a Henley team. It has been here for a very long time and we should help them achieve the next step up.”

Members voted to pass the application to the council’s value for money committee and will discuss it again at their meeting on April 19.



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