THE seeds for a European club cricket tournament in the Ipswich area were sown while Kester Clarke was watching television.

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The Ipswich Cricket Club groundsman was watching the International Cricket Council’s World T20 qualifying competition last year when he had the brainchild of a European tournament for club cricketers.

He began looking into the idea and a conversation with Nick Crame, like Clarke a former member of Copdock Cricket Club, confirmed his belief that it could be more than just a pipe dream.

Clarke, who is also an Ipswich CC committee member, said: “I thought it was something that had not been attempted before and having spoken to Nick Crame, who had toured Estonia and played against their national team while he was with Battisford, I thought there must be other European sides who would be interested in playing European opposition.”

It was then that Clarke approached Steve Gauke, the current chairman of Copdock & OIs, to float his vision.

He said: “Both clubs’ cricket weeks were struggling to survive, and I thought we should try to do something to increase our status and that this would be a good way of doing so.

“I spoke to Steve and he thought a European tournament was a good idea, so we formed a committee and met for the first time in January, and it has progressed from there.”

The European cricket club tournament will be jointly hosted by the two clubs and take place from Tuesday, August 6 until Thursday, August 8 next year.

An eye-catching logo has been designed by Copdock player Tom Jenkin, who works as a graphic designer, to promote the tournament and it appears on the official literature.

Copdock & OIs will be staging a Minor Counties Championship match on the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of that week, so tournament matches will only be played at their Old London Road on the Wednesday and Thursday. Ipswich’s Clay Hall ground, which has two pitches, will host matches on all three days.

The tournament will be played under T20 rules and feature a minimum of eight teams, although more could be accommodated, and it is expected that both Copdock & OI and Ipswich will enter a side.

Assuming there are eight entrants it is envisaged there will be two groups of four, with round-robin matches, followed by semi-finals, the final and a third-and-fourth place play-off, meaning each competing side should be guaranteed a minimum of three matches. The final will take place at Clay Hall on the Thursday afternoon, with a trophy awarded to the winners.

A marquee will be erected on the ground at Copdock, and on the Wednesday evening a Gala Dinner, organised in conjunction with the club’s main sponsors JLS Catering, will be held for between 150 and 200 people, with a special guest in attendance.

Clarke continued: “After getting the go-ahead I decided to contact the ICC and they said they would distribute information to all 31 member countries in Europe.

“We almost immediately had a response from The Baggy Blues Cricket Club from Budapest in Hungary, who play in a T20 league, and they are very interested. Dublin Civil Service Cricket Club have since also shown a very strong interest in taking part.

“We are now in the process of following up the initial distribution announcing the tournament.”

Copdock & OI committee member Taylor, who used to be cricket development officer for Suffolk, said they thought the staging of an international tournament for amateur cricketers and their clubs was unique.

“We have been carrying out research for nearly a year and had a lot of conversations with people and bodies like the ICC and no-one has said that it has been done before.

“Cricket is growing in Europe and it is good to have this kind of relationship so that maybe in two years’ time we can go and play at a tournament in somewhere like Hungary.

“This is about an opportunity to forge better relations across Europe. None of us see this as a one-off tournament and we will be much wiser next year going forward.”

Taylor said that the two clubs were happy to be involved in the joint venture.

He added: “The two clubs get on well and this is a public show that the clubs can work together. The clubs can exist together because they are so different in their style and marketing and they complement and support each other well.”

Clarke, added: “With superb transport links to Europe, the host clubs being only a couple of miles apart, and a number of excellent hotels, we are perfectly placed to host such a tournament.

“We are really looking forward to uniting the European cricketing family in what will be an exciting and enjoyable competition.”

Anyone interested in sponsoring the tournament or finding out more should contact Kester Clarke on 01473 780564 or 07736 555643, via email at kester@kesterclarke.com or go to www.ecct.hitscricket.com

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