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Flicx flexibility is facilitating Frimley expansion

Frimley Phoenix is Surrey’s newest club with its maiden year being in 2021. Following one year of rapid growth, they have purchased two 2G Flicx Multi Age Pitches to support the development of their ladies and junior teams as well as facilitating extra senior training capacity with one of the pitches part funded by Surrey Cricket Foundation from their grant funding pot.  

Frimley Phoenix have a main ground with one turf square but have discovered a second venue with great potential at Frimley Green Recreation Ground, a council owned green space where hundreds of cricketers could in theory be accommodated! On the occasion of their women’s softball festival, we picked up the story in an interview with Gary Dunford, Club Secretary who was joined by Mark Babb of the Surrey Cricket Foundation.

“The Flicx Pitch is great for this area” says Gary “We have got our other ground where our 1st  and 2nd team play but Frimley Green is a fantastic large green area – our women’s are based here so we have 3 women’s softball teams plus our youth teams using the site

For Local Authorities to maintain cricket squares these days is very expensive so the fact we can just roll out a pitch here and have some youth games going on; women’s games going on all at the same time just shows the benefit of Flicx Pitch in a recreational ground setting, so I am very enthusiastic about it”

What facility challenges exist for clubs in the Surrey area Mark?

The Surrey Cricket Foundation cover both what we would call leafy Surrey and the outer/ inner London boroughs. Across the county, but especially- in the outer and inner London Boroughs we struggle for space so it’s great to have a Flicx Pitch that you can just roll out instead of a traditional square. We know local councils are often cutting their costs so something like this portable wicket which can just be rolled out on a nice, fairly even piece of grass makes it much easier to play junior and women’s games and even some senior games so it’s definitely a useful product to have and we have seen a lot more clubs, schools and local bodies looking for these as an alternative to your traditional turf square or non turf pitch.

“Extending the Season”

Gary Dunford picks up “I also think the benefit we saw is by extending the season, we played a game at the beginning of April here. We can come down here, have an interclub game and next year I think we will try and play some more scheduled games. We don’t have access to our main square in April but the Flicx pitch allows us to play here from the end of March onwards as well as in September, October. If there is no football going on, we can come down here and roll out the pitch and have another cricket game … so it extends that season and keeps the club atmosphere going outside the usual May to August window”

Doubling up as extra training facilities for Frimley Phoenix

“The training facilities at our other ground were a concrete base so they are not ideal and not in a great location so what we want to do is roll the Flicx Pitch out here where there is plenty of space, we have facilities on site with the pavilion and can wheel out a bowling machine and put some nets around it so we can create better facilities than at the main ground.

To be able to come out here, quickly roll out two pitches (we have four nets here now) on the outfield for seniors on a Tuesday and youth as well, creates a great opportunity for the whole club to train smarter” commented Gary

What funding and support is available for clubs and schools in Surrey Mark, if they too wanted to purchase a 2G Flicx Pitch?

In terms of the Surrey Cricket Foundation our main aim is to promote the participation in cricket and the use of these pitches just allows cricket to develop in different environments. It is in use in a public park today, recently it was used at an athletics track and we are always keen to promote the use of the Flicx pitch, so cricket can be played in new environments and we have funding in place to help schools and clubs open up new areas to the game. I would encourage any clubs, schools or any other authority who are looking to increase the amount of cricket that they play and invest in a new cricket pitch to contact their local Participation Officer. You will find the details on our website. We welcome ideas from all clubs and authorities and are happy to help where we have the opportunity.

The Foundation has a pot which has been used to contribute towards the purchase of one of the Flicx pitches for Frimley Phoenix and we see these pitches as a good way for us to expand our reach, get more children playing and give more people the opportunity to play cricket in different environments when the more traditional environments are becoming scarcer and scarcer. There are funding opportunities out there so please come forward and speak to your local participation officer.

Gary, what was your experience in terms of the funding process and how it has benefitted Frimley Phoenix Cricket Club?

We are a very new club, its only our second season so as we started the club, we had a ground but we needed to get some net facilities and so we spoke to Mark Babb and the idea was ok let’s put a Flicx Pitch down. First, we rolled it out on top of the concrete nets we had in two halves (so a batting end on both nets) so that allowed people to train straight away within a month of the club being formed. As the club in the first year, we really developed very quickly so we purchased a second pitch to enable the women’s section to grow as well and that has now expanded to three teams. Our youth teams are now growing as well, and it allows us to be completely flexible with our facilities. If we want to have four games here (at Frimley Green), we can do, if we want to take it up to another ground, we can do it, so the flexibility is key when you are using a recreational ground like this.

“We are very pleased with the Flicx pitches, and we might even come back for another one!”

What has been the feedback so far on the performance of the 2G Flicx Pitch Gary?

How it performs…. Well, I mean straight away when we put it onto the old, traditional concrete based nets we had (we repaired the frame, it was derelict etc) straight away by laying it down, it just changed the whole facility. Suddenly we had a proper facility to practice on. Guys could run up and bowl as fast as they could, batters could get good value for their shots. Straight away it changed those nets which would have been a considerable amount of money and time to invest in a non turf type net facility, it allowed us within a week or so to have proper nets.

Then the extension of this, onto the outfield of the grounds here. It’s a true bounce. I think what we learnt is that you do need to lay it down an hour before, you do need to roll it out carefully. There were a lot of people who were dubious about it but we played the game in April – we started off by saying you are not going to get a game in April, so if you want it, it’s going to be on the Flicx Pitch so they all signed up to it, came along to it really quite dubious but the feedback was really positive, everyone enjoyed it, everyone enjoyed getting together before the season started, playing a game of cricket on a nice Sunday afternoon, I think it was Easter Sunday we played. It suddenly opens things up – maybe it will enable us to play a game in the snow at Christmas! Everyone is able to play more cricket and the club stick together more if these games are going on.

It played very true, people were very surprised, people could bowl fast, and it plays like a normal pitch so very positive feedback

And same question to you Mark in terms of what you have seen of the 2G Flicx Pitch from the viewpoint of a cricketer and your role within the foundation?

I would echo Gary’s comments having visited Fullbrook school, who were the recipients of one of the free Surrey 2G Flicx Pitches, who were playing a hard ball match with their year 7 and 8’s so U13’s and the bounce was as true as any wicket that I’ve seen. It allowed both the bowlers to bowl a good length and batters to play their shots which not all pitches do so it widens the environments that we can play cricket in. It’s gives very good performance from what I have seen.

We have some issues with inconsistent bounce on some local authority squares, but what this does give you is consistent bounce. Although as Gary says laying it out prior to the match starting and allowing it to settle does make a difference to the performance of the pitch, but no, I can’t fault the performance from what I’ve seen so far.

“Council Impressed”

Also, Gary adds “when we have played the earlier games – we actually lay it on the square so it is flatter and the council are quite impressed by the fact that we can use the square, lay something on it and play a normal game of cricket so they are very keen to extend the use of the facilities here further into the different parts of the season.

The outfield is one place where its “absolutely fantastic” but you can also play the pre-season matches when it might be a little wet, or you might damage the square (on the Flicx Pitch) … you can lay this down and you can play a game quite happily say in March / April / October / November so we are looking forward to extending season this year. You could call it a groundsman’s best friend!”

Future Plans

When Frimley Phoenix Cricket Club was set up, they very much went back to a focus on participation – it’s has been all about playing and enjoyment so it’s clear that is what they are actively trying to drive. They have got two men’s teams now which has been achieved within a year as well as 3 women’s softball team and two youth teams thanks to the support from the Surrey Cricket Foundation.

The clubs 5-year plan was in the most part ticked off in year 1 so they have adapted and jumped on a new facility opportunity when they came across it 5 or 6 months ago. The club committee worked with the council, who were very supportive so it’s now a part of the club’s plan going forward. It’s clear to see the club have grown very quickly, and things are going well with the infectious enthusiasm from club members and a lot of energy from volunteers to create a great club culture and environment.

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