St. George’s Cricket Club President Addresses Somerset Cupmatch Withdrawal

The St. George’s Cricket Club had been planning to host the 2021 Cup Match Cricket Classic on home turf since January. With the government planning to lift almost all COVID-19 regulations as of Sunday, June 20, all the ducks were seeming to fit into place . . . until earlier this week, when it was announced that Somerset Cricket Club will withdraw from this year’s competition, due to a “lack of preparation” and “health and safety concerns surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic.”

“ The reason why [St. George’s Cricket Club] wanted to host Cup Match was all about the people and always about their safety . . . it was never, from a St. George’s Cricket Club point of view, about money or finances,” St. George’s Cricket Club President Neil Paynter Jr. said during a press conference this afternoon.

When what is now undoubtedly the most celebrated holiday in Bermuda first started, the game of cricket was only a small part of it; the main purpose was to celebrate the emancipation of slavery. It became an official match between Somerset and St. George’s Cricket Clubs in 1902 and continued all the way until 2020, when it was cancelled for the first time due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

“ [Cupmatch] is a feel-good factor; we wanted the event for everyone, not just for St. George’s Cricket Club,” Mr. Paynter said. “ The club felt that, for at least two days out of the year, we would host an event that would bring Bermuda together and make them feel good if not for only two days, then for the rest of the year . . . Bermuda needs Cupmatch.”

Mr. Paynter assured the public that, if St. George’s Cricket Club were only thinking about themselves during Cupmatch, then they would not have hosted the event, as sometimes during the planning process, they are away from their families 24 hours at a time.
According to Mr. Paynter, St. George’s Cricket Club had plans in place to host over 2500 people at the event.

“ We would be ready, willing and able to host CupMatch . . . but Somerset decided that they did not want to show up and participate,” he said.

Now that the event is cancelled, Mr. Paynter would hate to see the same Somerset players and support that withdrew from Cupmatch supporting other Cupmatch events, such as the non-mariners race.

“ We have never worried about players being unfit to participate in Cupmatch before now,” he said. “This is Bermuda’s heritage and if people do not want to participate in it, then it is a sad day for Bermuda and for us sportsmen.”

After Somerset officially announced their withdrawal from this years’ tournament, Mr. Paynter spoke with Somerset Cricket Club President Vashun Blanchett, which he described as “very cordial” in nature.

Both the CupMatch planning committee and the St. George’s Cricket Club felt completely deflated after receiving Somerset’s withdrawal notice and Mr. Paynter cannot even explain the amount of work that so many people put in since January and within the last few weeks particularly to ensure that the game was put on.

“From speaking with people in the community, they are very upset,” Mr. Paynter said. “ If the government had told us that we could not host CupMatch, what do you think the outcry would be?”

Despite there not being an actual game at Wellington Oval on July 29 and 30, there might be some sort of event there. As soon as there is more information, the St. George’s Cricket Club will inform the public as to what will be taking place, if anything.

Mr. Paynter concluded the press conference by thanking members of the public, who have supported the St. George’s Cricket Club through the decisions that they made regarding Cupmatch.

“ In all the division that we have had on this island throughout this pandemic, I hope that we can come together at some point as true Bermudians and truly celebrate our heritage,” he said.
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