Cal Blankendal emphasises the struggles clubs face as cricket hopes stall
Sports clubs are being hit hard financially by the Covid-19 pandemic, which ended the football season prematurely and now is about to delay the start of cricket for a second year.
Cal Blankendal, the Bermuda Cricket Board executive director and an assistant coach at Dandy Town football club, has seen the hardship facing cricket and football clubs, in particular, as they try to thrive in tough economic times.
Early last month, the Government awarded $398,422 to nine community clubs, including four cricket clubs, to assist with upgrades to their facilities.
David Burt, the Premier, highlighted the important roles that sports clubs play in their communities when announcing the donations.
“We certainly recognise that this has been an incredibly challenging time for our island,” he said at the time.
’Our community and sports clubs have also struggled against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even with the adversities that this year has presented, these organisations managed to provide important services to their community.
“We believe it is important to extend our support where possible to these organisations and their programmes. They play an invaluable part in the communities they serve, and these funds will allow them to continue that work.”
The need is real says Blankendal, a former president of Western Stars Sports Club, which is undergoing upgrades to its field and clubhouse through a partnership with neighbouring firm Gorham’s.
“Clubs are businesses and the business models are going to be challenged by the pandemic,” Blankendal said. “It has to be a national discussion and not just a sports-based discussion because clubs tie into families, and families into schools.”
The cricket clubs, many of whom have football programmes, are facing another summer of uncertainly as they prepare for a season that the BCB had planned to start in early May.
However, further safety restrictions because of a rise in Covid cases forced an order to be placed on clubs to cease training. Now, a seven-day lockdown, which went into effect yesterday, has made things even more uncertain, with no mingling meaning no activity at the sports clubs.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Blankendal said. “Other concerns that we have, which the Bermuda Cricket Board cannot solve on its own, is the clubs are going to provide their facilities. If there is limited spectators, then there is also an economic impact.
“I accept there is a lot of support given to restaurants, bars and hotels, which is much needed, but we also need to look at the sports clubs — not just from the infrastructure side but also from being able to pay basic costs like electricity and ongoing maintenance, and even to pay their groundsmen.
”I think the clubs need to come together and put a case forward for a package which the sports clubs can get to make sure their facilities are going to be ready, open and available, and to be able to pay staff as well.
“That’s my opinion, and I think it’s a discussion that we will have to have to safeguard the sports for the next two, three years.”
Cricket, like the other sports, is at the mercy of Covid-19 restrictions in the coming weeks as plans have been made for international competitions this summer.
“We see it now, without sports there is not much for young people to do,” Blankendal said.
The BCB had a draft schedule drawn up, but that will be adjusted because of a later start to the season.
“We’re just waiting to see what time frame we have in relation to international competition, then that schedule will have to be redone,” he said.
“It’s a wait-and-see game, but we’re positive. We’re ready to go and we’ll respect the decisions of those charged with making sure that we stay healthy and safe. Hopefully, we can get some cricket played.”