United Kingdom

Death of cricket tea as village clubs vote to end mandatory serving of refreshments

Village cricket clubs have voted to end the mandatory serving of refreshments during matches after gripes over the standard of food on away trips.

The Sussex Cricket League - widely regarded as the world' largest recreational league with 140 clubs and 335 teams - last night agreed to give teams the option of scrapping the spread that has become synonymous with the sport.

Amateur players have enjoyed tucking into a selection of sandwiches, cakes and other snacks for decades, but for some, the tradition could soon be a thing of the past.

Clubs are now only obliged to provide hot and cold drinks after 114 votes were recorded in favour of the motion at the league's AGM, compared to 89 who voted against it or abstained. 

Surrey CCC cricketers enjoy a traditional tea, with a spread of sandwiches, in  a match against Hampshire in September 1971

Former England and Yorkshire batsman Geoff Boycott (right) chats over tea with BBC TMS commentator Henry Blofeld during a Test Match at Trent Bridge between England and West Indies in July 1991

However, those who still wish to provide the full tea experience can do so, and some clubs took to social media to pledge exactly that.

Horsted Keynes Cricket Club tweeted: 'HKCC are disappointed that cricket teas are being dropped from the @SussexCricketLg.

'We will still be providing teas for our players at home games, and are happy to also provide for any opposition who are happy to reciprocate.

'In fact, we are working on a new pavlova recipe.' 

Though Richard Plant, chairman of Kilnwood Vale, wrote: 'As a new club is can help as one less financial pressure on match day when still building the funds. 

'We would love to offer it and will where we can but the flexibility is welcome.'

The changes mean umpires will see their match fees increase slightly in order to be able to cover their own tea during the 30-minute break between innings. 

It comes after the impact of the Covid pandemic saw the cricket season cut short, with no option to provide teas at matches that did go ahead, meaning everyone had to bring their own food.

League chairman Gary Stanley told the BBC a number of clubs approached him after that to ask for the obligation to put on a spread to be removed.

As well as the obvious coronavirus impact, clubs have seen costs rise, volunteer numbers fall and more players demanding individual dietary requirements, making it something of a minefield for those already low on resources. 

Cake and tea are served in the Ladies Pavilion during day one of the Tour Match between Worcester CCC and Australia at New Road in Worcester last year

When a full tea has been provided, the quality has not been at the standard some expected, which just led to more frustration, according to Mr Stanley.  

'Decades ago there was the quaint idea of every club having a lady that prepared the teas for their teams out of love,' he said.

'There are clubs that are still fortunate enough to have that, but large numbers don't and often it's a case of "which player will provide it this week?"

'As a result you quite frankly get some poor teas. I'm sure some clubs are annoyed by providing a great tea at home and a curled sandwich and a packet of value crisps away.' 

Although considered quintessentially English, the cricket tea break was actually an idea imported from Australia nearly 120 years ago. 

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