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NatWest CricketForce set to break records in 2007

The NatWest CricketForce phenomenon is gaining momentum in 2007 with the number of registrations already up on last year and three weeks still to go before cricket's remarkable army of volunteers start brandishing their paintbrushes.

Last year, it is estimated that around £25 million was invested in 1062 crickets clubs around England, Scotland and Wales by local businesses with approximately 70,000 volunteers rolling up their sleeves to get their pavilions or squares looking shipshape. The year before, there were 665 clubs involving 50,000 people but with the huge yearly increases in activity and profile, 2007 is set to be a record breaker with 1069 clubs already registered.

NatWest CricketForce is all about cricket supporters, their friends and families giving something back to their local community cricket club by volunteering to undertake major renovations to clubhouses and grounds. Since it was launched in 2002, it has been an amazing success with a variety of clubs, ranging from village cricket clubs to the first class counties hatching plans to give their facilities a face-lift with the help in kind from hundreds of different companies.

For example, last year, Tynemouth CC on the River Tyne on the north east coast of England spent eight months on a project to transform their old pavilion after being turned down on three different occasions for lottery funds.

The total value of the project was estimated to be £250,000 and with the help of 155 volunteers, the club put a new roof on the pavilion, extended the lounge and bar, built a new kitchen, retiled showers and toilets, installed a new disabled toilet, disabled ramp, new heating system, new air conditioning, new electrics, double glazing, new carpets and flooring. The groundsman was given a new office and everywhere got a lick of paint, inside and out.

This frenzied activity brought the club under the spotlight and raised its profile in the region, bringing it new members and increased sponsorship but this is just one example from hundreds of projects that have painted a smile on club cricket's face.

This year, six clubs have been identified as the focus of the NatWest Cricket Force weekend on March 31 - April 1. Supporters at Shepperton CC in Surrey have already pulled down the pavilion and are preparing to rebuild it while Macknade CC in Kent have persuaded Hugh Robertson, Shadow Minister for Sport & the Olympics to help out; and Bells Yew Green CC in Sussex will get the chance to show off their brand new Climate Cover sheeting that will protect their square over the coming years.

Hampset CC in Somerset, Sileby Town in Loughborough and Cheadle Hulme in Stockport will also be leading the way in getting members of the England cricket teams, local celebrities and politicians, dignitaries and of course local supporters on board to don the T-shirts - at least 30 T-shirts are being sent by NatWest to all registered clubs - and answer the call to arms.

County Cricket Clubs have also spotted an opportunity to raise their profile in the local communities. Last year Derbyshire CCC's Academy players brushed up on their pre-season training by swinging their paint rollers around the pavilion at The County Ground and this year, there are initiatives at Essex CCC in Chelmsford and Somerset CCC in Taunton which are designed to draw willing helpers through the gates.

Some, like Sussex CCC are offering tickets as an incentive to Clubs and volunteers. All clubs who registered before mid February will get 50 tickets to the Pro40 game vs Northants on August 31. The C&G Trophy and County Championship trophy will visit 18 clubs around Sussex over the weekend for an hour at a time. Fourteen clubs will get two players plus approx five members of staff or the committee to help out on either Saturday morning or afternoon and four clubs will get three staff to help for half a day.