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Farewell to 'Mr SeaFrance'

Bill Laidlaw, Derek Underwood, Charlotte Edwards & David Sear

Bill Laidlaw, far left, pictured with Derek Underwood, Charlotte Edwards and David Sear on the SeaFrance Berloiz in 2006

The Kent Cricket Board is sad to report the news of the death of Bill Laidlaw, sales director of SeaFrance. Bill lost his long battle with leukaemia and died on August 8, aged 63.

Bill was a great cricket enthusiast and a member of Kent CCC. Known affectionately by many as ‘Mr SeaFrance’, Bill will be remembered for his outstanding support of Kent women and girls cricket. It was through his insight that SeaFrance became sponsors of the women’s and girls game in 2003.

Over the next five years, with funding from Sportsmatch, over £20,000 was invested into grassroots, club and county levels of the game.

It led to the most successful period ever in the history of women’s and girls cricket in Kent, elevating Kent to the number one county in England at senior and junior age group levels. No other county has been able to match Kent’s dominance of the women’s game.

In the SeaFrance sponsorship era, Kent won the County Championship for the first time in 2006, and retained the trophy in 2007.

Kent also achieved six national county age group titles: Under-17s in 2004 and 2007; Under-15s in 2006; and Under-13s in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Kent senior and junior clubs also collected national awards.

David Sear, the KCB development manager at the time, recalls the working relationship with Bill Laidlaw:

“Our partnership developed beyond a sponsorship deal. Bill became a great friend. He had loads of ideas, such as organising a cricket match on the helipad of the brand new Berlioz cross channel ferry to launch the new sponsorship deal. It was brilliant, and it didn’t matter if Lydia Greenway hit 30 Kwik Cricket balls into the English Channel!

“Then he came up with the preposterous idea of having the girls’ end of season do on the ship, but it worked superbly. We will never forget those three amazing and memorable presentation events on the SeaFrance ferry in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

“Bill was in his element, just loving the occasion with friends, the girls and their parents. Bill always said that the SeaFrance sponsorship deal with the Kent girls was one of the most pleasurable things he had ever done - and it was true.

“Bill was so generous and a complete enthusiast, especially when it came to cricket. Unlike many sponsors who just give money and you never see them again, he loved to get involved and see the action for himself – he was there when Kent beat Sussex to lift the County Championship for the first time – he bought everyone in the pub a drink. Later he came with us to Buckingham Palace to see the girls collect their medals.

“Bill’s vision, support and enthusiasm was truly wonderful and he has left a great legacy among Kent women’s and girls cricket.

“The whole county, from grassroots to senior level, is still strong. Even as I write, Kent women are leading the county championship, and our U13s, 15s and 17s girls have all reached their respective national age group finals.

“We will miss Bill’s warmth and kindness. What better way to thank him for his contribution would be if Kent women and girls managed to win the elusive ‘Grand Slam’ of all four national titles in the same season. It is quite possible and it would be the most fitting memorial to Bill Laidlaw.”