Cricket festival 'must be saved'

A PRESTIGIOUS cricket festival facing the axe must be saved for the good of a town, it was claimed last night .This year's annual Essex Cricket Festival – which starts tomorrow in Castle Park, Colchester – could be the last as the town struggles to come up with £15,000 to cover the fee demanded by the county's side to play there next year.

A PRESTIGIOUS cricket festival facing the axe must be saved for the good of a town, it was claimed last night .

This year's annual Essex Cricket Festival – which starts tomorrow in Castle Park, Colchester – could be the last as the town struggles to come up with £15,000 to cover the fee demanded by the county's side to play there next year.

Essex County Cricket Club, which boasts star names such as former England captain Nasser Hussein, has demanded the fee to appear away from their usual home in Chelmsford.

The club had informed Colchester Borough Council it could no longer keep paying the cost for the matches, which runs into the tens of thousands of pounds.


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The festival is one of the favourite events for sports lovers in the town and also brings in substantial revenue through tourism each year.

Last night, Colchester MP Bob Russell said the event was important to the town and had to be saved.

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He said: "It would be such a loss to Colchester, it is part of the social calendar, once it goes it is gone for good.

"It would be a terrible blow to the town's sporting prestige on the national map and I hope something can still be done."

He said the festival should not be judged solely on its financial viability.

"This would be a backward move – once you start trying to put values on the balance sheet many things can't be justified in crude financial terms."

He added the prestige it brought and the money it generated throughout Colchester in bars, restaurants and shops should be remembered.

Last year, the borough council handed over responsibility for the event to the Colchester Town Partnership which then passed it on to an events management company to try and find a solution to the problem.

This year, the organisers have paid the cricket club £10,000 for the event, but next year they are being asked to find £15,000.

Last night, the partnership's chairman, Tony Hales, said it was working hard to see if there was a way to retain the festival for Colchester.

He said the borough council had been "very prudent" in its decision to hand over the event.

"I appreciate there are a lot of people who will be very upset of cricket does not continue – but there have only been 4,000 people coming to the day matches," he said.

He added the decision to hand over the consultations to an event organising company was not expensive and that the company could work on a profit sharing basis if it went ahead.

"We are taking the trouble to try and save this rather than disregarding it as out of hand," he said.

The findings from the company will be discussed at the next partnership meeting to be held early next month – but that will happen after Essex County Cricket Club needs to have taken a decision about where it will play.

Nobody was available from Essex County Cricket Club for comment last night.

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