What would WG say?
Published on: 31 Oct 2013
THESE are testing times for Downend Cricket Club, as it tries to balance present and future needs with its sporting heritage.
The direction of the club for the 21st century could become clearer this month when members hold their annual general meeting.
Two years after they voted to look at the possibility of selling the WG Grace Memorial Ground to potential developers, they will receive an update on the options being considered.
Officials say the club is at a crucial point in its history but have pledged that any decision on the future of the historic site will be decided by a members’ vote.
This follows a members-only meeting last month, which heard from the company that has been looking at the possibilities as well as from some of the club’s cricketers.
A notice on the club’s website before that meeting said: “Due to a combination of ageing facilities and a lack of significant investment opportunities from private or grant funding, the cricket development that should be achieved by a club with Downend’s heritage is at risk.
“Accreditation as an ECB(English Cricket Board) Focus Club means that DCC has a commitment to cricket development; yet in the current position the youth offer is stretched and there is no capacity for girls’ and women’s teams.”
A club spokesman told Downend Voice: “ The recent information event was to update the club’s members on the research under way into a possible club move. This was an information event only and no decisions have been made.
“Members will continue to be kept informed throughout the research process. The decision to research a possible move was made by a membership vote in 2011. Any final decisions will be also made through a vote by the club’s members.”
It was revealed following the vote two years ago that a potential developer wanted to put flats and shops on the four-acre site in the centre of Downend, between Downend Road and North Street.
But as yet it is not known whether any developer has drawn up detailed plans for the ground.
The club is considering a possible sale of the ground both to secure its finances and to fund a move to a bigger ground with space to develop cricketing activities.
But opponents say that moving out would betray Downend’s history as the home of one of the sport’s greatest players. Downend Cricket Club, which has 120 adult members and 70 juniors, runs three senior teams, a Sunday team, and six junior teams.
The club was founded in 1893 and has owned the WG Grace Memorial Ground since 1920.
The legendary cricketer William Gilbert Grace was born in 1848 in a house overlooking the ground.
He played 44 seasons in first-class cricket, only retiring at the age of 60. WG, as he was affectionately known, notched up 54,896 runs as a right-handed batsman and also took 2,864 wickets as a medium pace bowler.
Grace was also a qualified medical practitioner, a 440-yard hurdling champ and an amateur footballer.