AN ONGOING partnership between Ashton Cricket Club and a popular music festival is proving to be a match made in heaven.
Fields of Gold – which attracts some of the biggest tribute acts across the country, including The Ultimate Stone Rose and Noasis – will return to Rayner Lane for a fourth consecutive year in 2024.
The two-day event, scheduled to take place on Friday, September 6 and Saturday, September 7, is expected to be a major hit and attract thousands of fans from across the north west.
In fact, there are hopes next year’s event, which has become a key date on the music calendar, will be bigger and better than the previous instalment – which boasted maraca shaking Bez from Happy Mondays.
The festival, organised and coordinated by Barry Malone, has provided a much-needed boost.
As well as expanding Ashton CC’s profile and generating greater exposure within the borough, the festival has transformed Ashton’s finances to a point of ‘financial stability.’
According to secretary Martin Frost, the lucrative money-maker has given the club, which celebrated its 150th anniversary at Rayner Lane last season, a new lease of life and brighter prospects.
But Martin, who spent his youth playing for Ashton, reaffirmed the club’s beliefs that the extra revenue will be used organically and to the benefit of everyone – including the bowls section. Speaking to The Correspondent, he said: “Before we even open the doors to the public, there are significant costs such as gas, electric, security and water.
“We can therefore pay for those costs using the money made from Fields of Gold. This, in turn, gives us the opportunity to use our revenue streams for the purpose and to the benefit of cricket.
“Our relationship with Fields of Gold has grown by the year, and it’s something we want to continue for many years to come.
“There were doubts in the run up to this year’s event as to whether it would go ahead, as the pitch was under water following a monsoon just a week earlier.
“But thankfully, after investing in the pitch in recent years, it was in a good state when the time came.
“That’s something we’ve continued to do following the event. The square has been scarified, dressed and seeded in preparation for next summer. Our main focus is to use the money on developing the club, wherever possible, for the benefit of the members.
“The club exists to promote cricket and bowls – something we’re proud of and want to continue.”
Representatives of the Greater Manchester Cricket League, Ashton’s first team enjoyed another memorable season in 2023, despite a lack of silverware.
Building on their unbeaten, promotion-clinching campaign of 2022, the first XI impressed during their debut season in Division Three and reached the T20 Final against Stand – a competition held at Rayner Lane.
But the players’ efforts proved to be in vain, as the Premier League opposition showed their quality and secured the trophy with a well fought victory.
Immediate disappointment aside, there are certainly grounds for optimism amongst the Ashton players, and Martin hopes that, with the experienced gained last season, the club can go one step further in 2024 and achieve a second promotion in three years.
Martin added: “Our ambition is to develop the junior section and create a pathway into the first team. We’ve had success in this area but still want to improve it.
“We were, traditionally, one of the major cricket clubs in the area. Unfortunately, we declined over recent years but we’re looking to return to what we believe is our rightful level.
“We’ve invested a lot of money into various areas of the clubs. Although we want our senior sides to be successful, there’s a big emphasis placed on building the juniors and attracting more youngsters to the club, so they can forge their way into the first, second and third team in the coming years.
“We’re happy with the way things are progressing at the moment, and a big part of that success comes from our volunteers, sponsors and the ongoing support from Fields of Gold.”