It was with increasing incredulity that I listened to the terms secured by the highest-paid cricketer in Division Two of the Northants Cricket League.
Apparently there’s a player who received a £1,000 down payment at the start of this season with a promise of £1 for every run scored to play at a level that is one division below Peterborough Town seconds’ current standing.
Now the club concerned can fritter their own money away as they please, and fair play to the player for negotiating such a lucrative deal to perform at such a modest standard, but it’s further proof that amateur cricket is heading down the same crazy path that non-league football clubs set out on years ago.
Cricket clubs that love to brag about the success numbers-wise and skill-wise of their junior set-ups still fill first-team places with professionals at every opportunity.
If there’s a homegrown kid in the side, he’s as likely to be fielding at third man both ends as he is opening the batting and bowling for Market Deeping.
Professionals guarantee nothing anyway. It’s fair to say that Peterborough Town wouldn’t have won the last three Northants Premier Division titles or enjoyed great success at national level in Twenty/20 cricket without the input of pros Paul McMahon and Asim Butt, but for every success story there have been many flops.
Even village clubs like Newborough have started to splash the cash.
They are paying Aussie import Robbie Trickett £1 for every run scored in Cambs Division Two, a deal that has so far cost them £386. Newborough are currently sixth in a 12-team division, three places higher than they finished last season.
Paying players can damage a club’s long-term future. What happens when the money runs out? The best players leave and those loyal members who have been neglected despite paying to play might not be so keen to ride to the rescue.
It would be a shame if cricket followed local football’s route.
Loyalty is often bought at United Counties League level - rumour has it, it’s also being bought at Peterborough League level - hence the 50 or so transfers between local clubs before the end of June.
Those clubs gleefully parading their new signings on social media must surely know, and possibly fear, that the offer of an extra fiver would persuade many of those same players to move elsewhere.
Many players don’t join a club because of a ‘vision’ and they certainly don’t hang around because of loyalty. The standard of football doesn’t seem to matter either.
Money talks as loudly as it did for comedian Harry Enfield’s ‘Loadsamoney’ character.
The word ‘budget’ comes up whenever discussions about UCL football are held as though the amount of money available is all that matters.
Maybe it is.
What price loyalty