Expat Cricket in France
Wednesday 01 September 2010
Aficionados of the quintessential English game of cricket need not think they have to give up playing or watching the game if they move to France.
There are 44 officially recognised cricket clubs in France, many of them started and led by British expatriates, but some of which also include a surprising number of French players.
Peter Townsend is secretary general of France Cricket, the ruling body of cricket in France, which is itself an Associate member of the International Cricket Council.
He says that around 40% of the 1200 licenced players in France are French, 'although nationality is sometimes a sensistive subject, in a country where one's origins, like one's faith, are not up for discussion.'
'Clubs in the Paris region are for the most part ethnically based, whereas a club in Lille boasts players of ten nationalities', he says.
Last year, France Cricket joined forces with the French government to start a pilot project in primary schools for development of the sport.
That is a long way from the position during the Second World War, when the game was banned by the Vichy regime!
For those who prefer merely to play or watch the game rather than become involved in the politics of it, then there are cricket clubs in all popular expat areas in France.
Not surprisingly, one of the most active areas is in the South West where ten teams participate in the regional pools of the National League championship and the Siddalls Knock-Out Cup.
This year the final of Siddalls Cup was held on 29th August at Damazan (Lot-et-Garonne), when Bordeaux-Giscours beat Toulouse CC by 161 runs in front of a very large and appreciative crowd of supporters and neutrals.
In addition, the clubs also play a number of village touring clubs from the UK, when reports are widespread that these are often very festive occasions!
Tim Smith, who is president of Eymet Cricket Club in the Dordogne, says that although most clubs are able to turn out a full team each match, they are always looking for new members, ‘so anyone who has the any inclination of what to do with a cricket ball is likely to be welcome in most clubs’, he says.
Although there are expat clubs in other areas of France, Tim says that ‘distance and budgets prevents matches taking place on anything other than a regional basis. '
‘That said, says Tim, ‘the winner of the South West pools earns the right to play in the 'Super Ligue', which consists mainly of Paris clubs.’ This year that club will either be Mansle (Angoulême) or Noé-Gascogne (Gers), who meet in the regional final at Damazan on 5th Sept.
And what about the participation of French players in these matches? ‘Sadly’, says Tim, ‘we have no French players in our own side, although there are a small number that play for some other clubs in the South West.'
Peter Towsend says the low number of French players in the South West is due to the 'Blighty' syndrome, which, he says 'has to be related to the historical 'penetration' of the region by people coming from the UK.'
If that is the case, then so much for the idea that the game may have originated in France, an suggestion that would probably send a shudder down the spine of any member of the MCC.
According to the ICC, the game of ‘criquet’ was being played in the 15th Century in France, when it is reported to have caused the death of one of the players. Perhaps that is why the French now show such little interest!
Those wanting to know more about joining or watching one of the expat clubs should go to the website of the France Cricket, where the full list of clubs and contacts is available.
Alternatively, try the very informative and friendly website of the ACCSO, an umbrella body established in 1992 to promote and coordinate cricket in the South West. Their site carries details of all the regional matches, fixtures and results, together with links to the club sites.