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St George’s and Somerset at odds over Cup Match ruling

Neil Paynter, president, with other members of the St George’s Cricket Club leadership team.

St George’s Cricket Club have disputed champions Somerset Cricket Club’s claim that there is “no clause” in the rules which would force them to surrender their title after refusing the formal invitation from the challengers to contest Cup Match in St George’s.

Dawn Simmons, the Somerset secretary, said there is “no clause in the rules that speak to relinquishing the cup” after it emerged that the holders had withdrawn from the annual two-day classic, due to be played at Wellington Oval on July 29 and 30.

However, Neil Paynter, the St George’s Cricket Club president, disagrees.

“We do have Cup Match rules which we amended in 2019, which we were assisted by the Bermuda Cricket Umpires Association. There are some guidelines in it which Somerset are aware of and St George’s is looking at all their options at this time,” Paynter said at a press conference yesterday.

“There are clauses in there that speak to the fact if no one shows up.”

Asked if there is a possibility that Somerset would be forced have to relinquish their title, Paynter replied: “Anything is possible. Right now it’s early days. We as a committee have just been discussing it and we intend on meeting again in the coming week. We will formulate any type of discussion that we will need to have with Somerset Cricket Club or if we want to have those discussions”

Asked if his club had sought legal advice on the issue, Paynter said: “We have no legal minds or any lawyers looking into it at this point.”

Somerset Cricket Club had not responded to a request for comment on their rival’s claim at press time.

The holders turned down St George’s’s formal challenge after the host’s members were in favour of staging the match at a meeting on Tuesday night.

The champions said in a press statement that they withdrew with a “heavy heart” after “much deliberation” over health and safety concerns amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the lack of cricket that they feel “impede the integrity” of the annual two-day match.

They also acknowledged the endeavours of host St George’s Cricket Club and other stakeholders who have been working tirelessly to formulate proposals for an alternative Cup Match experience.

“The process started in early January when we announced that we will be hosting the annual Cup Match classic,” Paynter said. “We met with Somerset and told them that we are going to do it and then started the planning process.

“The reason why we wanted to have Cup Match was it was all about the people. It was always about the safety with us being in this pandemic. It was not from a St George’s Cricket Club point of view about money.”

He added: “Last year when Cup Match was cancelled due to the pandemic, Somerset made their decision in the interests of safety. We fully supported them because as the hosts they have more understanding of what had to be done.

“As we moved along in this process Somerset were aware of every planning process and everything that would have to be done.”

Paynter said his club “recognise” Cup Match as the “most celebrated holiday in Bermuda”.

“When this was started cricket was just a part of it,” he added. “It was a picnic where they were celebrating the emancipation of slaves and they happened to play a pick-up match.

“In 1902, it formally became a match between St George’s Cricket Club and Somerset Cricket Club and the legacy has continued forthwith until last year when it was unfortunately cancelled.”

He added: “We at St George’s Cricket Club realise that the country needs Cup Match. Its’ a feel-good factor.

“Cup Match is a huge part of our culture. We wanted this for everyone; not only St George’s Cricket Club. Cup Match is something that gives us hope. It is something that we come together for two days of the year.

“We realise that people have lost their jobs, have lost loved ones and have lost their homes.

“We felt that at least for two days of the year we would host an event that would bring Bermuda together and make everyone feel good.”

Paynter said his club’s members believe that having Cup Match this year would also be in the “best interest” of local cricket.

“Most people are saying that we haven’t played that much cricket, but cricket is about to start and we need it,” he added.

“The Bermuda Cricket Board has also spoke to the clubs, particularly St George’s Cricket Club, and were willing to give us Saturdays so we can have trial matches throughout July.

“Most times we’ve only had one trial match, so the fact of saying that we won’t be playing any cricket is false. Cricket can be played. Bermuda needs Cup Match.”

Paynter said his club was hoping they could “bring everything together” to quench the public’s thirst for the return of local events.

“The last 16 months Bermuda has been crying for local events,” he said. “I’ve heard the public say we’ve had all these international events and all our local events have been 
cancelled.

“Now we as a club and as a community were looking to bring the biggest local event in our calendar. We were looking to bring that to the people. This was totally for the people of Bermuda.”

Paynter added: “The clubs are the pillar of their communities and we as a club, like every other club, have a commitment to our communities to ensure we do the right things to bring everyone together.

“We were the hosts of Cup Match. We knew that we could put this game on July 29 and 30. I myself have over 30 years of experience in running Cup Match and being a part of it and with this team I could reassure Bermuda that it would’ve been a stellar event.”

Paynter said Government had allowed up to 4,000 people — both vaccinated and unvaccinated (with a negative test 72 hours prior to the match) — to attend the event.“We had to put plans in place and were basing it 2,500 with the intent of getting up the maximum amount that we can,” he added. “The island is about to open up, we are about to free. What is Cup Match about? Freedom, the celebration of freedom. Why as a people are we taking the freedom away from ourselves?

“We cannot blame Government, we cannot blame St George’s Cricket Club. We were ready to host Cup Match and Somerset were not willing to participate.”

Paynter said he and his fellow committee members “deflated” over Somerset’s decision not to play.

“I can’t even say how hard we have worked from January, and particularly these last three weeks, trying to put something on for our country,” he said.

“Speaking with people within our community they are upset. Had the Government said we can’t have Cup Match, what do you think the outcry would be?

“We were putting on a safe event. The Government, who legislates things in reference to Covid-19, were very confident that what we put in place would be safe.

“St George’s Cricket Club were in a position to host under all of the regulations and guidelines, safety protocols, sponsors were in place, and Somerset made the decision that they didn’t want to show up.”

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Published June 19, 2021 at 8:08 am (Updated June 22, 2021 at 8:37 am)

St George’s and Somerset at odds over Cup Match ruling

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