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NatWest CricketForce returns

David Collier & Jacqui Watson

ECB chief executive David Collier and Jacqui Watson of Swindon CC at Edgbaston

The biggest annual volunteering event in sport is back as NatWest CricketForce 2008 was launched at Edgbaston during the NatWest ODI between England and India on Monday August 27.

NatWest CricketForce 2007 saw more than 80,000 volunteers turning out on a sunlit April weekend at more than 1,150 clubs; bringing £35m value in kind to the game.

In the last three years around 200,000 volunteers have contributed time and energy to community cricket clubs through the NatWest CricketForce initiative.

The ambitious volunteering scheme will have a heavy emphasis on energy efficiency in 2008.

Launching NatWest CricketForce 2008, ECB chief executive, David Collier said: "The success of NatWest CricketForce has been immense in recent years, returning much needed revenue directly to clubs and ensuring cricket clubs are at the heart of their communities.

"In 2008, we will again improve club facilities and, for the first time, place an emphasis on energy efficiency.

"More community clubs than ever before will need the help of volunteers following a rain-drenched summer and NatWest CricketForce will provide skills, labour and care to supplement the funding already made available by the ECB to help clubs worst affected by the heavy rainfall."

Also launching the scheme was Jacqui Watson, whose club, Swindon CC in Staffordshire has participated in NatWest CricketForce for the past three years and was a showcase club in 2006.

"At Swindon CC we have been able to build a net facility, create an indoor childrens play area, rebuild our external viewing area and build a café terrace," she said.

"We have refurbished toilets, repainted all the clubhouse windows and refurbished our sitescreens - all through NatWest CricketForce.

"Taking part in NatWest CricketForce has been like throwing a rock into a pool - the ripples never stop.

"We have established relationships now with over 150 volunteers and local organisations including Dulux, Hilton Hotels, Tesco, Marshalls, Harris Brushes, Marley Drainage, Asda, Focus, Wolseley Group.

"Swindon CC is now a nucleus for sporting activities in the village and local area, and also hosts crown green bowls tournaments and football tournaments.

"The club is home to a number of sports teams, and we are starting to see the various groups begin to interact with great benefit.

"We have a hugely expanded junior section as a result and can now run boys and girls junior cricket teams."