Clubs in the Sussex Cricket League (SCL) will be allowed to choose whether to provide a mid-match tea from 2021 onwards, after voting to end decades of precedent at their annual general meeting.
With 140 clubs and 355 teams, the SCL is the world's biggest recreational set-up, and the proposal was carried in a closely contested vote, by 114 in favour to 89 against.
It means that home sides will no longer be obliged to provide food during the innings break, although they will still be expected to offer cold and hot drinks for players on both sides, as well as the match officials. The innings break in Sussex league fixtures will remain 30 minutes in length.
The announcement met with a predictable wave of reaction on social media, with the traditional image of the bountiful mid-innings spread prompting much nostalgic outpouring. For cricketers of all generations, faced with dropped catches and first-ball ducks, a good tea has quite often ended up being the saving grace of a weekend afternoon.
However, the reality for many modern-day league sides is far less idyllic, with a decline in the number of volunteers willing to focus on the catering, and the onus tending to fall on hard-pressed match managers, whose main priority is to ensure 11 fit and able players for any given contest.
Match teas were suspended as a precautionary measure during the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, after comments from the prime minister, Boris Johnson, appeared to single out their social aspect as one of the main reasons why the recreational game could not take place for the whole of April, May and June.
Instead, players were encouraged to bring their own food when the sport resumed in July, and with many clubs facing cash-flow issues in the wake of the pandemic, the opportunity to offload the financial burden of the cricket tea is one that looks set to catch on. Other leagues up and down the country are expected to follow Sussex's example and offer their members a vote in the coming weeks and months.
Here's a sample of how the debate has unfolded on Twitter since the decision was announced.
We will unilaterally disregard the outcome of this vote. We encourage other clubs to follow suit. https://t.co/1y9q1XrpOn— Preston Nomads CC (@PrestonNomads) November 24, 2020
HKCC are disappointed that cricket teas are being dropped from the @SussexCricketLg.— HKCC - Home of The HK Horsemen T20 team (@horstedkeynescc) November 23, 2020
We will still be providing teas for our players at home games, and are happy to also provide for any opposition who are happy to reciprocate.
In fact, we are working on a new pavlova recipe.
Good Lord. Sussex Cricket League has voted that teams no longer have to provide a cricket tea for a match. No tea? During a match? If this twaddle catches on, an asteroid may as well destroy us all now.— Mark Steel (@mrmarksteel) November 24, 2020
My hot take on #teagate....— TheTeaLady (@crickettealady) November 24, 2020
Most of the biggest defenders of teas aren't those who have to organise or make them!
I mean I'm sad, but I wish players had the same enthusiasm to help me make tte food and clear up as they seem to have for eating.
Bit sensationalised tbf.— Aldwick Cricket Club (@AldwickCC) November 24, 2020
Teas not stopped - any club wanting too can
We've struggled to get XI out at times with a slip cordon having an average age of 70+
Try then getting a volunteer to do tea when you've begged players to play.
At least the option is there now
No cricket teas are just another nail in the coffin of one club providing something for the away team and officials. The jug has gone. The umpires who stand in the cold and rain might just need something to warm them up. I am in favour of keeping them.— Dan Whiting (@TheMiddleStump) November 24, 2020
Lots of discussion about cricket teas at the moment. If you can't understand why people are voting to scrap em.— The Fat Cricketer (@DatFatCricketer) November 23, 2020
1. Your not involved with the hassle of organising them.
2. You take the tea ladies for granted.
3. Your teas are amazing
4. Your making decent profit #teagate
The misrepresentation of the cricket tea was precisely what fooled our PM into thinking the sport was a greater threat to public health than tennis. Those who just want to play can & do live without it. Those who want to socialise (post-Covid) will put on massive spreads! Hurrah!— Andrew Miller (@miller_cricket) November 24, 2020
Some lads play a whole season without getting much of a bat or bowl. The social aspect of cricket coupled with the chance for everyone, no matter what size, shape or age, to play is a huge part of the sport at recreational level. Cancelling teas is so short sighted & damaging— Keyser Söze (@LeightonTreagus) November 24, 2020