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Ben Read

Pavilion at Oporto Cricket & Lawn Tennis Club

Oporto Cricket & Lawn Tennis Club

Oporto Cricket & Lawn Tennis Club

Oporto Cricket & Lawn Tennis Club

Oporto Cricket & Lawn Tennis Club

Oporto Cricket & Lawn Tennis Club (OCLTC) was founded in 1855 and for the majority of its life, laid claim to the most Southerly grass cricket pitch in the Northern hemisphere. Sadly, the grass wicket was replaced with an artificial pitch at the beginning of the 21st Century. That has not stopped it being a perennially popular destination for touring teams.

The current club is actually an amalgamation of the OCLTC (originally known simply as the Oporto Cricket Club) and the Oporto British Club. A merger that was formally concluded in 1967, but about which talks were first recorded as early as 1932.

I was very fortunate to be greeted by the current president, Mr. Douglas Rogerson and long-standing member, Mr. Peter Cobb. What followed was a fascinating conversation about the history of the club and the role of cricket within it. All intrinsically connected to the product the city is most famous for, Port.

“Cricket is in the DNA of the Club”

To quote Mr Rogerson, “cricket is in the DNA of the club”. It transpires that amongst the Portuguese community, the club is often known simply as ‘the Cricket’, a fact confirmed to me in conversation with a number of friends within the Port wine community. The simplification of the name overlooks the range of social pursuits offered by the club as well as the receding influence of cricket over the years. That is a trait that has affected the game globally and by no means a challenge Mr Rogerson faces alone.

Although cricket is the main focus of this article, it should be noted that the club has strong traditions in many other sports. These include tennis, hockey, rugby, squash, football, athletics and swimming.

Over the 2 hours or so I spent with Mr Rogerson though, it was abundantly clear that as President he is absolutely committed to maintaining that focus on cricket. There is certainly no shortage of opponents readily available, able and willing to visit. The summer fixture list is generally filled at least a year in advance with touring sides, many who have a long history of visiting.

Helmets Inside the OCLTC Pavilion

Helmets Inside the OCLTC Pavilion

Touring Teams

Listening to the names of regular visitors, I am reminded again of the history of the club and its association with the wine trade and British expatriate life. It is a list that includes:

  • The Cryptics – a club founded in 1910 at Oxford college and with a history of visiting OCLTC dating back to 1924.
  • Wine Trade Sports Club  – no explanation necessary!
  • The Law Society Cricket Club  – no longer affiliated to the Law Society, but whose members are historically from the legal profession.
  • Amigos Cricket Club – a Portuguese based club, with a social approach to cricket
  • Demijohns Cricket Club – a club with strong links to St John’s College, Oxford and very recent visitors to OCLTC for their 60th anniversary tour in May 2017

On taking a look at the past presidents and committee members, the reason for some of these long-standing touring associations are perhaps revealed. Names such as Symmington, Delaforce, Graham, Guimaraens, Sandeman and Warre will be immediately familiar to any lover of Port wine. As families, they almost certainly have connections historically with many of the organisations these clubs represented.

The Port wine trade remains represented at OCLTC, but perhaps not to the extent it once was. Could this be related to the changes in the industry that have seen much corporate activity? The amalgamation of many of the traditional houses into a small number of corporate entities owning the brand names, many of which are no longer in use, has probably played its part.

Notable Visitors To Oporto Cricket & Lawn Tennis Club

With such a strong connection to the wine industry, it is perhaps no surprise to cricket lovers to hear that amongst a number of notable players to have visited the club is David Gower! History records that he visited as part of a ‘triumvirate’ of England captains past and present, with Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting.  I’m told this happened at a time when David Gower was still very much a part of the England team and as such, was not permitted to play. The club records show his official activity that day as umpire, but knowing his love of fine wine, I doubt his decision to attend was purely to allow him the chance to give ‘out’ Gooch or Gatting!

It is a match Peter Cobb recalls well – his last match playing for the club before retirement. As can be imagined, there was some excitement at the prospect of seeing Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting open the batting and on attending the toss, Peter tells me he made Mike Gatting the following offer – “If I win the toss, we will field. If you win the toss, I assume you will bat!”. And indeed, Gatting and Gooch opened the batting – with different results. A second ball duck for Graham Gooch and 80-odd for Mike Gatting.

Other notable names mentioned include Alan Lamb and Peter Such, the latter of whom is featured behind the main bar with a signed photograph.

Honours Board in OCLTC Pavilion

Honours Board in OCLTC Pavilion

Current Day Cricket at Oporto Cricket & Lawn Tennis Club

The XI these days is rather more representative of current society. A mixture of English, Asian and Portuguese players turning out to represent the club’s honour against the range of touring sides. Much as we do in England, the club struggles to keep youngsters interested in the game with many offspring of the members lost to the club as they leave for university and careers elsewhere. If you play cricket and find yourself in Porto for any length of time, new players are always welcomed. There are many worse places to be playing cricket in the world!

The facilities are certainly very attractive. A fully equipped pavilion featuring on the far side of the pitch from the main club facilities. By fully equipped, I refer to changing rooms, catering and bar facilities! No player or official will go thirsty or hungry while watching cricket at OCLTC.

These days, the artificial pitch makes preparing a suitable playing area much easier. Helped also by the fact that what was historically a slope to rival Lord’s has now been leveled off. The whole club rather has the feeling of an oasis within the beautiful but bustling city of Porto.

The Kendall Cup

The Kendall Cup

Kendall Cup

The Kendall Cup is believed to be one of the oldest sporting fixtures in Europe. It is played between cricket teams representing Lisbon and Porto. The match was first played in 1861, a fixture that resulted in a rather humorous description of the game in Punch a year later.

The Kendall Cup was described to me by Mr Rogerson and Mr Cobb as the Portuguese equivalent of the Ashes. It clearly occupies prime place on the fixture list for the OCLTC every year. Possession of the cup carries much pride for the winning team. Currently possession is with OCLTC. Rather like the ‘Ashes’ though, possession is virtual. The actual cup permanently residing in the OCLTC trophy cabinet these days.

The Future of Oporto Cricket & Lawn Tennis Club

Based on the welcome I was afforded and the strong future fixture list of touring sides, the club has a strong future. Like other cricket clubs the world over, there are many sports competing for the interests of younger players.

Reverting back to Mr Rogerson’s comment to me that “cricket is in the DNA of the club”, I should record the subsequent words he said: “It always will be.”

It was an absolute pleasure to spend a few hours at OCLTC. Somewhere I very much hope to visit again in the future. Hopefully at a point where it is possible to watch cricket being played.

ICC Champions Trophy – Cricketeer Volunteers

ICC Champions Trophy

ICC Champions Trophy

The ICC Champions Trophy is fast approaching and like most major sporting events now, its success will to some degree be dependent on the support of an army of volunteers. Those volunteers have been labelled ‘cricketeers’ by the ICC. This will be my second major sporting event as a volunteer. With the tournament now only 5 weeks away, excitement is building!

I chose to get involved because I love cricket and I love the interaction between fans. This website evolved as a result of banter I had with an Australian cricket fan (and now friend) about 12 years ago. With so many international events now relying on volunteers, why should you consider getting involved in future sporting events as a volunteer?

Cricketeers fill a number of roles across the event organisation. The role the majority of fans will encounter is that of ‘spectator services’. The team that is responsible for being the fan-facing ‘army’ of volunteers there to help ensure fans have a smooth enjoyable day out. They will be positioned at every main access point and around each stadium, helping fans with everything from the nearest pub to the nearest toilet. And every conceivable question in between! They are without a doubt the team of volunteers that will have most interaction with fans from all the teams involved. If you like talking to people and helping people, it is a great role.

Volunteer Roles

Volunteer roles also include transport (driving the VIP guests!), accreditation, media, hospitality and event activation. Having been involved as part of the spectator services at Rugby World Cup 2015, i’m part of the event activation team at the ICC Champions Trophy. Our role is to help bring the event to life for fans, players and the media and the full-time team managing this aspect have some exciting ideas lined up. We spent a day at the Oval earlier in April learning more about the role and what is required of us. It is a hugely exciting opportunity and one from which I expect to learn a lot.

As volunteers, we have no expectation of watching any of the matches. If we get to see any of the games, it is a bonus. But we get huge satisfaction from being part of a major international sporting event. Yes we give up our time for free. But we get a ‘money can’t buy’ experience in return. And we get to keep the uniform after the event!

My Cricketeer Highlights So Far

The tournament is still ahead of us, but for me, highlights so far include:

  • getting to see the Champions Trophy and Women’s World Cup at my interview;
  • meeting my cricketeer colleagues at my training day at The Oval and getting a ‘behind the scenes’ tour that included the media facilities;
  • getting my uniform – you won’t be able to miss the cricketeers at the matches!

If you are heading to a match in June, please do use the cricketeers for any help or advice you need. Our primary role is to ensure the fans have a great experience on match days.