New chief executive Gordon Hollins says he is determined to ensure Somerset Cricket Club come out of the lockdown in a position that allows them to ‘prosper’, writes Tom Howe.
Hollins was reflecting on an ‘interesting’ first six weeks in the post, during which he has seen all cricket suspended and taken the decision to furlough a number of staff, players and coaches under the Job Retention Scheme launched by the Government.
Whilst the situation will be ‘reviewed on a constant basis’, only a skeleton staff of those crucial to current operations are continuing in their roles, with many of those furloughed taking the time to enrol in online personal development training.
With this week’s update from the England and Wales Cricket Board stating no action can take place before July 1, Somerset’s director of cricket Andy Hurry said the club had a ‘duty of care for when the players do return’, and will ensure they are ready for the demands of the game by progressively building their workloads.
“It wasn’t a shock to the players or the coaching staff,” explained Hurry about the furloughing. “Gordon had been in regular communication with the staff and updating them on the fluid landscape as it was evolving. We are seeing some really clear guidance on the parameters to furloughing players, which is really, really helpful.
“I spoke to all the players and sports staff individually to tell them they were being furloughed and, whilst disappointed that they couldn’t be out training, playing or in the coaches’ case, supporting the players’ needs, they fully appreciated and understood the challenging times that we are all facing.
“I have been really impressed with the creative and pragmatic ways that players have adapted to being furloughed and the challenges that presents. A significant number have taken this opportunity as a chance to develop themselves and a huge number of the staff are undertaking online personal development training.
“As a club I feel very fortunate that we have a culture – it is part of our DNA – to work hard, be physically robust and, like many individuals across the country working within those government guidelines that have been set, using the time to exercise as a way to combat the lockdown everyone finds themselves in.”
While waiting on further guidance about just when they can get their season underway – the domestic campaign was due to start on April 12 – Somerset will continue to be ‘flexible and creative’ in terms of their support for the club and those around it.
“It’s been a rather interesting induction programme for me,” joked Hollins, who was in the process of relocating to Taunton when the lockdown began. “I am coming to the end of my first six weeks in the post and, despite all the challenges that the club and I have faced, I am absolutely thrilled to be appointed chief executive of Somerset, a club with a really deep history, strong traditions, a fantastic, loyal fanbase and a really deep relevance in its community.
“The relevance of cricket in Somerset and the South West as a whole was a really important driver for me. Making a difference through sport in a community is really what drives me more than anything else. My priorities have been ensuring the well-being of people, be they staff, players, members or visitors, along with stabilising the financial situation the club is in.
“There will be no business in the world, I imagine, that isn’t impacted by this crisis in some way. We are no exception to that. We are operating with a skeleton staff, as most sports clubs are at the moment, and the purpose of that is to allow the club to function to the limited extent it can and [to ensure] that we are prepared to hit the ground running as and when the cricket season starts. I know it will be sore for the club, but to what extent I won’t know until the shape of the summer becomes apparent.
“We need to be giving back to our community because there are a lot of people really struggling. We are in really positive conversations with the council in particular, about what role we can play to help them with their challenges.
“Somerset Cricket Club has been around since 1875, it has come through two world wars and it will come through this. My goal is for it to come through it stronger and in a position that it can prosper and make a difference.”