HISTORY OF SPANISH CRICKET
Cricket is first recorded as being played in Spain in the year 1809 by soldiers of General Lord Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington). It was during the Peninsular war that the soldiers played the game in and around Ciudad Rodrigo, Lugo and Orense. From that date there are many recordings of the game being played by visiting British land and sea forces, either between themselves or against local British expatriate communities.
However, the game really started a new era in Spain with the founding of Madrid Cricket Club in 1975. It was based on British and Indian players, but soon crossed other national lines when West Indians and eventually Spanish members joined. That was only the beginning, as many other clubs have found out trying to persuade Spaniards to part with land for a sport with the classic “When you’re in, you’re out” explanations was soon found to be unworkable; and that was only one of the difficulties.
In the first years of its existence, Madrid had to content itself with playing against touring teams or teams from the British Embassy or the like, as there was no formal structure or regular opposition elsewhere in the Country. But, in 1982, the number of Clubs in Spain doubled. This was because, Phil Smith, one of the founders of Madrid CC, was transferred by his company to Barcelona, and he there founded the second cricket club in Spain.
The first match played between two Spanish cricket clubs took place in this year between Barcelona and Madrid, at the Polo Club, to coincide with the opening of the World Soccer Cup. There followed a dramatic increase in the number of clubs being formed, three in 1985, three in 1986, when, additionally the Malaga Cricket Association, the forerunner of the Asociacion Española saw the founding of the National Association (AEC) to co-ordinate cricket throughout Spain.
On 24th June 1989, the first National Executive Committee of the AEC was formed at a meeting in Madrid, and the first steps were taken to unify all of the clubs in Spain. 1990 saw the founding of the second club on Mallorca, and 1992 saw the birth of Marbella CC and Jávea CC, the first club on the Costa Blanca. In the same year the AEC achieved the third of its objectives and became an Affiliate member of the I.CC In July 1992, ten National European teams competed in “The European Cricketer Cup”, of which Spain was a participating Nation, at Worksop in the UK.
Although the newest country on the cricket scene, Spain competed on equal terms with the larger, in terms of numbers, and better established sides and finished in a laudable seventh position. That was the first time that Spain had provided any nationally selected squad. It was in that year that an attempt was made to produce a national league competition, and although promised funds by a sponsor, to assist with the tremendous distances involved in playing matches, when that sponsorship was withdrawn, the league collapsed because clubs could not find sufficient cash to support a full programme.
However, the Acorn Hotels Group sponsored the first Spanish National Cup Competition, which was held at Mallorca. Two purpose built grass cricket grounds were opened during the course of the same year at the Cartama Oval in the Costa Del Sol and in Menorca. Furthermore, the AEC started putting its administrative house in order by introducing a National player registration scheme.
In 1993 Jávea CC won the Spanish Cup Competition in their first full season, and the Costa Blanca Cricket Conference, which had been formed the previous year, organised the first National Umpiring Course. A new administration was elected to the AEC and a concentrated effort was made, achieving substantial administrative reforms by the end of the year.
1994 saw the inauguration of a new purpose built cricket ground on Mallorca and the AgrupaciÃ³n Mallorquina De Cricket was founded. The AEC completed its restructuring and brought in new rules of Association and strengthened financial controls and budgets, and started a centrally run Umpires Correspondence Course. The following year saw a major advance in activity mainly because of an historic three year sponsorship agreement with Columbus Insurance for the Spanish National League programme.
The first full International tour took place to Italy where matches were played against both Club and the Italian National team, and Spain entertained Portugal in an historic full International match played at Cartama. In the same year a new Club was formed at Alfaz del Pi, Sporting Alfas Cricket Club, in co-operation with the local Town Hall and playing on a golf driving range provided by the Town Hall.
Spain was also honoured to receive its first tour by the M.C.C., who played matches over a two and a half week period on Mallorca, the Costa Blanca and Cost del Sol. During the course of this visit the opportunity was taken for courses in both umpiring and coaching of the game. During the course of the year the AEC was recognised by the Spanish Government Sports body as an official sport within Spain, and an historic agreement was reached by Jávea Cricket Club with the local Town Hall for a joint commitment to teach the youth of Jávea the game of cricket. The Town Hall committed themselves to the provision of funds and facilities. Finally the Spanish Umpires and Scorers Association was formed.
1996 saw Spain accepted as a member of the European Cricket Federation and agreement was reached with the SunAlliance Insurance Group for the sponsorship of the Spanish Cup Competition with the final being held at Alfaz where the Insurance Group’s ‘Showliner’ vehicle provided a wonderful Pavilion backdrop. The first MCC coach was brought over to Spain to give tuition to coaches and players and the Chairman of the AEC was appointed Director of Finance and Sponsorship Officer of the European Cricket Federation. A new club was formed at Las Palmas in the Canary Islands and this year saw the first ever National League and Cup Double victories by Jávea Cricket Club.
1997 saw the strengthening of the ties between the Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance Group and the AEC by an increase level of sponsorship for the National Cup Competition. Spain also became a founding member of the European Cricket Council and its Chairman, Ken Sainsbury, was elected to the Executive Committee. With the appointment of the European Cricket Development Officer, Spain was able to appoint its own Development Officer, Mr. Keith Shingler, to take advantage of the opportunities that were then developing within Europe by the excellent backing of the ICC, MCC and ECB. This joint partnership produced a dramatic advance in the playing of Kwik Cricket amongst schools, particularly on the Costa Blanca, and it was wonderful to see young Spaniards keen to play at last. A new initiative was signed with the Copeland Insurance Group to support the growth of youth Cricket within Spain, which assisted Clubs and Schools to encourage their youngsters.
The new Millennium saw Spain organise its first ECC Tournament, the 2000 Indoor, which saw Associates compete for the first time in this Competition. Spain finished a creditable 4th at this its first attempt. In 2001, we competed for the first time in the ECC Trophy and U15 2nd Division Competitions, which, with the Indoor Tournament, reflected most creditably on the Administration with the meagre resources available. 2002 saw another historic hour arrive in the development of European Cricket when the Costa Blanca played host to the inaugural European Cricket Academy. After a great deal of effort and co-operation between Officers of the ECC and Members of the Association, the arrival of 14 of the best young cricketers from 11 European Nations arrived in Spain to begin the most intensive period of cricket coaching and instruction that the continent has seen.
Another piece of Cricket history was made when Ken Sainsbury, the President of the AEC, was invited to be the first Affiliate Member of ICC to become a Member of an ICC Committee, which was set up to consider and report on new International Qualification Rules. He was also the first Affiliate Representative to be invited to the ICC and Associate Annual Meetings. With the continuing help from Europe and the other cricketing authorities there is now a sustained Youth Development Programme in Spain and, although beset by lack of funds and personnel, should set cricket in Spain on the right tracks. In 2003, apart from holding the 2nd European Cricket Academy and hosting the ‘Imagination Roadshow’, we again competed in the ECC Trophy and U15b as well as the European Indoor Tournament.