Aigburth Cricket Club is one of Liverpool’s oldest – but as its current lease comes to an end there are doubts over its very survival. Club captain Danny Bowers tells Jamie Tichborne about a club that’s more than just cricket…
After more than 130 years operating as a cricket club and facilitating other sporting and social events, the future of Aigburth Cricket Club in St Michael-in-the-Hamlet is uncertain as the lease of its grounds comes to an end.
Despite an outcry over the potential eviction – locals suspect the owners PR Investments would seek a change of use, followed by a sale of the land – the club is at the mercy of its landlord.
Unless another lease can be agreed – or the club manages to find the money to buy the land outright – it could be the end of the oldest cricket club in Liverpool.
Danny Bowers, first-team captain at Aigburth, says the club is about more than just sport.
“I’ve been a member here for ten years, and since then my attachment to the place has only grown. I’ve gone from being a player in the second team to a captain in the first team. I think it does so much for bringing people together.
“During our tournament, Last Man Stands, a lot of our players are from minority backgrounds. We host Sri Lankan teams, Indian teams, Pakistani teams. It’s done so much to help those communities integrate in the local environment.
“Personally though, it’s my club. It’s why I get up early on a Saturday morning. It’s why I spend hours during the week dealing with texts and phone calls and all the other stuff that goes along with being a captain.
“Ultimately for me there’s no better place to have a beer after a game of cricket on a Saturday evening as the sun comes down. If we were to lose that I’m sure we could join another club, but it wouldn’t be the same. It means so much to us all.”
The club is important to to cricketers around Liverpool, but a petition to save the club shows the depth and breadth of feeling beyond the cricket community.
We could join another club, but it wouldn’t be the same. It means so much to us all.
“The current petition has over 7000 signatures. That gives you a feel of the relative worth of the local club to the community,” says Danny.
“We have over 400 members. We have 10 bowls teams. There’s darts teams, chess clubs, quiz nights, art classes. There’s even a brass band that uses it. Both the local Labour and Green parties use it.
“There aren’t many community hubs and there aren’t many green spaces in full use during these times and it would be a huge shame to lose one.”
So how has the beloved club got to this point then?
“The main issue is the fact that, even though we own the club, we don’t own the land. Back in 2014 they issued us with an eviction notice but we took them to court and managed to come to an agreement where we extended the lease for an additional five years.
“Now that agreement is coming to an end and we’re back in the same position. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that they don’t want anything to do with it. They’d probably like to sell it for housing.
“We’ve tried to engage with the likes of Sport England and the Lancashire Cricket Board as well as the local government just to see what can be done, but ultimately what I think it comes down to is that the land isn’t ours and the owner wants to do something different with it.
“We’re hoping to come to some sort of agreement where we can continue the lease and pay an annual fee. The other option would be purchasing the land from them and seeing if we could take ownership of the land and own the club ourselves and run it ourselves. One of those two scenarios would be ideal.”
The club now has until November to work out some sort of agreement. Danny believes that to lose a Liverpool fixture like Aigburth Cricket Club, especially during the Covid pandemic, would be an enormous loss to south Liverpool.
“There’s a great mix of people from different backgrounds and ages. I’m really quite proud as a captain that the teams in the club are so mixed. It’s a friendly club where everyone is welcome.
“The amount of times I’ve found myself on Saturday evening having a pint listening to a conversation between a vicar who used to play for us and a couple of the Muslim guys who used to play – those are the kinds of interactions that are more difficult to come by.
“But those are the ones that are so important.”
• You can sign the petition here.