THE new chairman of the South of Scotland Cricket Association (SoSCA) believes it has to work closely with the region’s youth development group to ensure a brighter future for the sport.
Selkirk CC’s Alex Massie took on the role last month and believes the loss of a regional development officer – prompted by Borders Sport and Leisure Trust’s (BSLT) decision to remove cricket from its list of target sports – presents problems that are better tackled by the SoSCA and Scottish Borders Junior Cricket Development Group (SBJCDG) operating in tandem.
The 38-year-old said: “The key element is increasing the number of boys and girls who have the chance to play cricket. That’s the only way we can guarantee the long-term health of Borders cricket.
“It’s my personal opinion that SoSCA may need to work more closely with the Scottish Borders Junior Cricket Development Group to solve some of the youth cricket challenges we face. That’s a matter for the association to decide, however.”
Massie describes the dropping of cricket from BSLT’s target sport exit strategy in September as a “great shame”.
It resulted in funding for the development officer post, held since 2004 by Neil Cameron, being removed by both BSLT and Cricket Scotland (CS), leaving the prospect of no coaching provision for the Borders.
However, it now appears a part-time community coach – funded by BSLT, CS and the East of Scotland League where six Borders sides will play in 2013 – will be in place for next year as a stop-gap measure.
Stephen Halls, chairman of the SBJCDG, has a meeting tomorrow with CS chief executive Roddy Smith to outline his organisation’s concerns. Halls does not believe any U-turn will be carried out by the governing body, but is still hopeful for the future of the game in the region.
He added: “It is not all doom and gloom, and there has been some positives to come from the process, such as funding for a community coaching role in 2013.
“It gives us more time to work on a long-term solution to providing youth coaching in the Borders. The junior leagues will continue next season and training sessions for the under-13s and under-15s begin in the new year.”
Massie, a freelance journalist, says the demise of the 116-year-old Border League in 2011 gave local cricket a jolt, with all five teams which subsequently entered the East League’s nine-division set-up last season earning promotion.
They will be joined in 2013 by Melrose, which will enter the league at Division Seven, where the Huntlyburn club will compete alongside Hawick.
Despite the setbacks and changes, Massie believes Borders cricket still has plenty to offer – provided it gets adequate support.
He added: “Last season showed that Borders cricket is perhaps stronger than we might have appreciated in the final years of the Border League’s existence.
“It’s important to note that Border clubs have been producing good young cricketers. Josh Irvine and Graeme Ormiston (both Gala) have represented Scottish age-group sides in recent years. So has Tom Galbraith (Kelso). At the senior level, Scotland caps Stuart Chalmers and Ryan Flannigan each began their cricket in the Borders.
“So, in my view, the region has proved its worth as a contributor to the wider Scottish cricketing community.
“Borders cricket has, does and will do a lot off its own bat, but we could do a lot more with greater support from the cricketing authorities whose remit, after all, is to help spread the game.”