The poor quality of the club’s Lapstone Park pitch has resulted in Fair Oak’s relegation to the Hampshire League, despite finishing sixth out of the ten teams in the SEPL’s third division writes Southern Daily Echo’s Simon Walter.
Fair Oak’s 2nd XI – which finished third in County 3 South – has been denied promotion by the Hampshire Cricket League for the same reason.
But chairman Andy Eley is confident of an improvement this summer.
He said: “We’ve got things in place to make sure the pitch is back up to standard this year. The autumn maintenance work went very well, an Ageas Bowl groundsman will be helping out and we have received good advice on how to maintain and prepare the pitch.
“We’ve also had very good support from the parish council with regards to equipment and we’ve got a great set of volunteers so hopefully we’ll see an improvement in the marks this season.”
Fair Oak won promotion to the SEPL in 2005 but received an unprecedented severe warning last year are and became ‘ungraded’ after receiving an average pitch mark of 19.92/40, from umpires and opposition captains, in 2014.
Overall they scored 26.44/50, to include marks given for the outfield (Portsmouth & Southsea’s 34-point average was the next worst).
Since the SPL AGM, Fair Oak have appealed unsuccessfully to the Hampshire Cricket Board.
Eley continued: “We’ve gone through all the due processes, but it didn’t change the outcome so we have to accept it and move on.
“It’s very disappointing because our marks improved significantly towards the end of the season but unfortunately not over a long enough period of time.
“We’ve got a thriving colts set-up and my biggest concern is that it prevents our youngsters playing at the highest possible standard.”
Fair Oak’s third and fourth teams are not affected as they play their home games at Twyford and Owslebury.
SEPL chairman David Ridley said: “I don’t wish relegation on anyone but all of our clubs’ grounds are graded and assessed by the Hampshire Cricket Board’s grounds and facilities committee and Fair Oak received a severe warning two years ago.
“The pitch did not improve significantly so they became ungraded which means they can’t be in the league.
“It wasn’t just the marks, the comments captains and umpires provided were very negative and the other 32 clubs were all in favour of this decision.
“I sincerely hope their ground marks improve and they finish in the top two of the Hampshire Cricket League next year so they can be welcomed back into the SEPL. That would give me a lot of pleasure.”