IN a world without coronavirus, this coming Saturday would have seen club cricket return to Somerset.

The Somerset Cricket League had a scheduled start date of April 25, with the West of England Premier League to follow the weekend after.

Coronavirus has put all that on hold, however, with recreational cricket in England suspended until further notice.

Dan Bingham - 1st XI player, head groundsman and youth coordinator at Wembdon Cricket Club - gave the Mercury an insight into how his club had been affected.

“We’d be out training now, and we were meant to play Burnham-on-Sea in a warm-up friendly match,” he said.

“We had some pre-season training in February and the start of March, but then that ceased of course.”

Essential ground maintenance does carry on as normal, as it can be done by one person, so that Wembdon’s facilities are able to host cricket as soon as the all clear comes.

Bingham added: “The consensus among the players is that some cricket will be played.

“Our gut feeling is that we’ll get half a season, starting in June or most likely July; we’d then play nine games, running through to August or maybe September.

“It’s likely that would mean no promotion or relegation this year, as that wouldn’t be fair, but there might be some kind of T20 cup competition to add a bit of a competitive edge to the season.”

Wembdon were aiming high in the WEPL Somerset Division this season, Bingham says, with successful player recruitment and the return of Josh Henry - a spin bowler from South Africa, who had played for the club in 2017 and 2018 - as overseas player, but it now looks very unlikely that he will come over.

From a financial point of view, there are two aspects to Wembdon CC - the cricket club itself, and The Green, a community facility which has hosted weddings, parties and conferences.

Bingham said: “The cricket club runs the bars for events, but that’s more of a separate business.

“From a cricket club point of view, there’s no income but we’re OK - there’s no real expenditure, just a little bit on ground maintenance, so generally we’re in a healthy position.

“We haven’t requested any membership fees yet.

“It’s something that has been mentioned, and we know that other clubs have asked their members to help them out, but we haven’t done that yet.

“Our insurance does need paid, and at the end of June we’re due to pay a corporation tax bill.

“For that we rely on our trade over the last few months, so at this stage we’re not sure how that will be paid or what government schemes we can look in to.

“After a wet winter that disrupted the football season, we were ready to ramp things up with functions at the club, so that’s taken a hit, but we will look to rebuild and keep going.

“We’ve briefly looked into the ECB and Sport England schemes.

“It may help with our insurance payments and other bills, but we don’t want to abuse the system - if we don’t need it, we won’t use it.”

Another concern for clubs is player retention, given the possibility of a summer without any cricket.

“For older players, both men and women, you worry that they might lose interest, but people tend to be so eager to play again after a break," Bingham said.

“So I think the senior section of the club will be OK, but the junior section is a bit more difficult.

“The majority of young players will be keen to play again, but if there’s no junior cricket this year then we won’t be seeing them for 18 months.

“Will they carry on or give it up? That is a concern."

He added: “We planned to have new initiatives at the club this year. As well as the ECB All Stars scheme, which we’ve had before and may still happen, we also planned to launch Dynamos sessions.

“The plan was to have girls-only sessions before the women’s training, and then some of the women’s players could come and help coach them.

“Our hope is to have girls-only teams, which would then feed into the women’s section.

“A lot of these things are now unlikely, and we can’t go in to schools to promote the club either.

“The youth season tends to finish in July, in line with the end of the school year - so will there be a youth season at all this year?

“So the junior section is a concern, as when you’re young it’s easy to find other things to do, rather than someone who’s been at a club for years as an adult.”

Whatever happens to the club game this year, Wembdon are marking a special milestone.

Bingham explained: “The disappointing thing - and there is a bigger picture, which we recognise - is that 2020 marks Wembdon’s 100th year, so we had hoped to hold some special events.

“We had a beer festival last year and hoped to hold that again in June, but that looks unlikely now.

“It’s impossible to plan really, so our 101st year might be the one that we celebrate!”