Thursday, 22 April 2010

Sefton Super League calls in The Power

There's no small level or irony in the fact that, of all Sefton Super League darters, it should James 'Two Darts' Pearce - so called because he only ever got two darts in the board out of every three - who is the League's most famous member.

Stuart 'Killer Ken' Lomas, the club's own answer to Taylor, is a star within the four walls of the Shack, but has never been thrown darts in front of many more than eight people, never mind 8,000.

Not content with throwing a few arrows on the sacred Liverpool Echo Arena oche last year, accompanied to the stage by a young lovely who insisted on holding his hand all the way, James Pearce is now getting darts lessons from Phil 'The Power' Taylor - undoubtedly the most dominant force in darts of his generation.

Jim quickly benefited from The Power's tutelage, casually nailing together three-dart aggregates as high as 36, but – despite his darter's physique - was advised to stick to his once-a-year public humiliation.

Sefton Super Leaguers, and those at Sefton responsible for the upkeep of carpets and wallpaper, may be breathing a sigh of relief.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Is it summer?!

Yes, there are a couple of buds on the most ambitious of trees – it must be cricket season. As has been repeatedly reported for the last week, the counties kick off the championship today earlier in the year than ever before basically at the behest of the Board of Cricket Control for India so they can play some more pointless Twenty20 in September. Of course it feels like 99% of the populace have no idea what the County Championship is.

Unfortunately the ECB’s meek climb-down to cricket’s global powerhouse hasn’t been greeted with the covering of snow it deserved (which much of the country had a week ago) but what is looking like it will be a very pleasant weekend to bowl seam-up on a greentop. You never know, there might even be some positive results if the rain stays off for a couple of days. Despite rising crowds in the four day game, this year half this season’s championship games will be played by the end of May, or the start of summer as it’s commonly known, to accommodate yet more Twenty20, which suffered from lower crowds last year, some of which will include additional overseas prima donnas to stretch county budgets further. Can we not leave the complete over-the-top grandstanding of the most one-dimensional form of the game to the IPL? The original T20 Cup worked well because it was new, cheap (£6 at Old Trafford in the first year, £18 at Liverpool last), brief and exciting; however, there were also only 3 or 4 home games for each county

A hidden product of this early start was the shift in date for the Cricketforce weekend, dubbed the biggest volunteer event in the country by the ECB, into March which, at Sefton at least – admittedly never the greatest club so far as volunteering goes – led to fairly scant attendances for both the preseason players meeting, season launch fundraising event and Saturday’s work for bringing the grounds and facilities up to scratch for the forthcoming season. The reason given that Cricketforce couldn’t be this weekend, immediately prior to our season, was that the occasional county pro wouldn’t be able to give a sightscreen a lick of paint to promote the whole shebang – something that a handful of clubs nationally benefit from. To many cricketers and club members, the thought of going to a cricket club before April is apparently completely alien so it’s hardly any wonder we were left with an unfulfilling race night.

I wonder if Lalit Modi would consider sharing any of his or the BCCI’s millions to refund the difference?

Friday, 2 April 2010

Sefton Super League Darts: Fun, funds, friendship and filth

It's pretty tough to get people to do things nowadays, with so many distractions and mobile communication devices meaning everyone's bored of everything.

It's hard enough convincing people to go down the pub, or even leave the house at all. So it's pretty bloody impossible to get them to do anything involving cricket club administration.

Sefton needs to generate cash more urgently over the winter than over the summer - as there's not a steady stream of thirsty and hungry cricketers turning up to part with their cash. Over the winter things can get lean, and Sefton Park CC is not especially well-placed geographically to attract passing customers being situated, as it is, in the middle of Sefton Park.

So, current Sefton Chairman and fourth/fifth team stalwart Stuart Lomas hit upon a killer wheeze that would combine his three greatest loves: cricket, darts and Excel spreadsheets. The Sefton Super League was born in 2008, and Sefton has never looked back. Lomas, a man best described as grumpy and officious, deserves significant credit.

The first year attracted 16 players, turning up over the long winter months to throw arrows and down Trad. By the time the final came around there were dozens of spectators pouring money into the tills and bitter down their necks to see two of the four finalists whitewashed.

It was a successful start, but there was more to come. the 2009-2010 season saw two separate divisions - the Sefton Super League and Sefton Plate - and a spin-off knock-out tournament. There were also forays beyond the realms of Sefton to other pubs to take on other teams, and the women who play darts at the club got a darts hiding they aren't likely to forget.

The darts nights will have sent thousands into the club's coffers, and many enjoyable nights are the result.

A weekly newsletter, The Arrow, goes out to subscribers, detailing many and varied amiable slurs against the character of Sefton members; another weekly pre-match report, Darts AM, goes out hosted by characters as diverse as Sir Roger Moore, Trevor Jesty and the Transporter bridge; a mainly-nonsensical betting ring has sprung up surrounding the leagues; photos go on Flickr and videos of entrance music and presentations go on Youtube; a hack from a national broadsheet writes up the final.

The culmination of this effort is the finals night, which saw not one but two specially-made videos: one a brilliantly-executed Rocky spoof, and the other a video version of Darts AM, with contributions from Roger Moore, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Brum and Kendo Nagasaki involving interviews, voiceovers, animation and audio and video editing. It's probably fairly baffling and unfunny if you're not in on the jokes, but to me it symbolises the effort that people are willing to put into something they care about.

The success of the darts night gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. It shows what you can with a bit of effort, a bit of help, and a bit of support. It's an enjoyable way of keeping the wolf from the door from the club's point of view, and it allows a lot of men brought together by a mutual love of cricket to express their fondness for each other in the only way they know: through competition; through forensic discussion of obscure sport and sportsmen; and through viciously defaming and ridiculing one another.

As the club moves towards its 150th anniversary, the darts nights have shown how it is possible to engage and mobilise a membership at a time when it's hard to convince someone to leave the sofa, nevertheless trudge through the mud and wind and rain to get beaten 3-0 by the club's reigning champ.

The video below may mean little to you if you don't come down to the club on a regular basis, but to me it's proof that people are willing to freely give of their time and money to make something they believe in work.

And it's not often you can say that about a video featuring Sir Roger Moore making knob gags.

Darts AM 2010

Peter Kelly's Rocky spoof

Sefton Super League video playlist