By James Ayles
For a club with royal connections, London’s Spencer CC is determined to make sure the sport remains open for all. The team forms part of Spencer Club, which also has hockey, lacrosse and tennis sections, and is named after Princess Diana’s great grand uncle Earl Spencer, who gave land on Wandsworth Common to the founders in 1873.
Having moved to their current site Fieldview, in Earlsfield, in 1903, a club with such a rich history have become pioneers for the game’s future thanks to its thriving women’s and junior sides.
There are currently around 900 boys and 300 girls playing at various junior levels, and club captain James Smith believes this is a huge positive for the Surrey Championship Division 1 side.’
He said: “What we’re trying to do with the juniors is develop the next generation. We have scores of kids in the youth programme.
“The drop-off rate can be quite high, but a big thing in my role is making sure there is cricket for everyone.
“You hear of these country clubs shutting down because they don’t have enough players, and we have got players coming out of our ears. We do a lot of work in the community and with schools in the area to encourage school children to take up cricket.
“Because we are one of few clubs in central London, lots of people send their kids down for the summer holiday and for camps so we can pick up some really good numbers.”
For club chairman Neil Harrison, the club’s heart of London location provides challenges, but also definite upsides. He said: “There is a massive challenge in terms of space and facilities. What there is in abundance is people and communities.
“We’ve got to reflect that and be open and accessible to all the people around us, whatever their background. It is about encouraging as broad a community as possible to get involved in cricket.”
For those aspiring to make the grade at Spencer, there are a number of inspirational figures who have served the club well. Current Banstead director of cricket Neil Baker joined Spencer aged eight and became first team captain at 18 before ending a 23-year association in 2015.
Gus Atkinson came through Spencer’s youth sides before signing a professional contract with Surrey last year. And of course, Spencer was also the proving ground for ten-Test England fast bowler Alex Tudor.
Harrison said: “Alex is one of our own. When I joined he was just at the end of his career. In the late Nineties and early Noughties when he was in his pomp he was always happy to come back and play for us before his England call-up and is a great role model.”
Club captain Smith added: “We have always tried to have an emphasis on youth and look at getting them into the adult teams as soon as we can. It’s a really good mix and it’s something we are really building towards.
“We’re hoping Gus Atkinson and our first-team captain Gus Grant can be poster boys for kids coming through.”
One of the club’s biggest recent successes has been the progress of the women’s side. They field two sides, with the first team now playing in Women’s Cricket Southern League Premier Division.
Smith said: “Not many clubs can claim to have two really good women’s teams. They are really shooting up the leagues; it’s a really strong and active sector of what we do.
“They are starting to come up against some very high-level county players.
“We’re very proud of that and we can see the increase in the women’s side from where it was when I started.
“There aren’t many women’s teams in London so that’s something we want to uphold.”
Indeed, the club have made significant strides to bring their men’s and women’s sides closer together.
Harrison added: “The fourth and fifth teams had a number of women playing for them last season and we want to encourage more of that. It’s been the same in pre-season and in the nets so there’s no sense of it being token, they are all out there laughing and joking together.”