Spain: Over 2000 Spanish children playing cricket, but do the expats care?

The future of the game at senior and junior levels in Spain is set to take diverging paths following a decision by the national governing body, the Asociation Espanola de Cricket (AEC) not to stage a national league this year.

Exasperated by the attitude of the English-expatriate based clubs towards the game's growth, the AEC gave Spain's 15 or so clubs an edict - undertake development work or be left out of the national league.

AEC officials were not surprised when only two clubs, Javea and Sporting Alfas, conformed.

"I understand that the expats just want to have a hit and a couple of beers and then go home, but if cricket is going to have a future in Spain the clubs need to see the big picture," AEC secretary Ken Sainsbury said this week.

"The Spanish are marvellous athletes and very serious about their sport. If each club could appoint a development officer and take on one of two Spaniards, it would make the world of difference."

Sainsbury said the clubs were not just indifferent to development, but exclusionary.

"I know of clubs that woould rather take the field with nine or 10 players than include a Spaniard in their side. They just don't see the point in it."

He said the given the geographical spread of clubs in Spain their attitude was self-defeating.

"Cricket exists in Spain only where there are pockets of expatriates meaning teams can travel long distances just to play a match. To take a team say to Majorca can cost the equivalent nf UKpds2000. Obviously with more all-Spanish clubs you won't have to travel as far."

Part of the problem for the AEC is that the annual migration of English clubs to Spain provides the expatriate clubs with full fixture lists.

This means the expatriates have little motivation to put in the extra time and effort necessary for developing the game amongst the Spanish.

Thanks, however, to the tireless work of AEC officials, outstanding progress is being made.

Over 2000 Spanish children aged from six to 15 are playing Kwik cricket in schools and colleges. Later this year some of those children will attend European Cricket Council sponsored coaching camps in London.

This is the result of many hoors of the five volunteer officials of the AEC - approaching school headmasters, explaining the game and getting it introduced on to the school curriculum.

It is not just on the field that the AEC wants Spaniards to become at least as numerous as the expatriates, with the appointment of Jaime Gonzales as chairman of its Development Committee. The AEC hopes more Spaniards follow, relieving the pressure on the AEC executive and providing local faces to the 'selling' process.

"Being expatriates we come and go, and it is essential we get the Spanish involved," Mr. Sainsbury explained.

The existence of Spanish clubs is crucial to complimenting the outstanding progress made by the five-man AEC executive.

"If they don't have clubs to progress to all of that work will be wasted."

The impediments are not just internal.

Under the present International Cricket Council structure, the AEC, like all Affiliate members of the world governing body, only receive grants for specific projects, such as the installment of practice facilities.

"If we could get some financial support it would mean we could employ a Spaniard full time on the development side of things and that would be much easier than an Englishman going in and trying to sell the game."

BTTW will take a look at the structure of non-Test cricket in the near future.