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Cricket players worry if the sport will survive in Calgary
Published Thursday, June 14, 2018 5:07PM MDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 14, 2018 6:43PM MDT
Calgary’s cricket community is mired in a legal dispute that some players worry is threatening to tear apart a league built up over the past century.
Some members of the Calgary and District Cricket League say there’s no more money to support the sport in the city and they’re suing the former president, accusing him of taking thousands of dollars out of the league’s funds and then moving to Ontario. The former president denies the allegations and is countersuing.
Calgary police and the province are also investigating, but in the meantime, players are losing opportunities on the pitch.
“Now, all of a sudden, the league can’t afford to sponsor them for these tournaments and they can’t afford to send them on these tours just because we’re hardly making ends meet,” says Shahbaz Saadat, president of the city’s Predators Cricket Club. “…Lots of games have been played here, international as well as domestic championships. Over 800 players are registered to play cricket here so, in my mind, that’s a big deal,”
Saadat has played for the past 15 years and he knows what it takes to compete, physically and financially.
“I started when I was a student. I was doing odd jobs to put money together to pay my fee. There’s a lot of those players in our league, under-19 kids, parents are putting money together to pay for them to play in this league,” he says.
Saadat says those funds go towards grounds maintenance, mats for the fields, rental fees, training costs, youth camps, equipment and, most importantly, to pay to get players to tournaments.
Salman Khan, the former president of the league, told CTV in a telephone interview all the money went to the league, from training to officiating to equipment to upkeep of the infrastructure here and when he took over, the league’s finances were already in trouble.
He also says the league is still in arrears to Cricket Alberta.
Now, members of the Calgary and District Cricket League say all their players are being blocked from representing Alberta or Canada at tournaments because of the dispute.
Players, who live, eat and sleep cricket, say the worst part of the situation is not being able to compete with their peers all around the world.
Rommel Shahzad, 18, has been playing since he was three and has aspirations to play at the professional level.
“I’ve already represented Canada under 19 and so it just goes on from here. [It’s] just the love of the sport and how it brings people together.”
Shahzad says his sport has taken him all around the country and the world, where he most recently represented Canada at the Under 19 World Cup in New Zealand this past December.
But he and his fellow teammates were stung last week when they were shut out of competing at an interprovincial tournament held in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
“For a lot of us, it was our last year as an under 19 and most of the guys from Calgary didn’t get a chance to represent Alberta in their last year which is really sad.”
Saadat and the rest of the representatives of Calgary’s club say that Cricket Canada is siding with Kahn in the dispute and players are suffering because of it.
Cricket Canada did not respond to inquiries from CTV.
“What frustrates us is that neither Cricket Canada or the Sports Society of Alberta or whoever it is will intervene and come forward and say ‘we need to mitigate this’,” Saadat says. “It’s hurting players, its hurting clubs in this city; somebody needs to step up and say ‘we have the authority’.”
Shahzad, who is heading into his final year of cricket, is worried about what impact the dispute will have on future generations of kids.
“Kids might give up when they see they have no future staying in Calgary so then they might invest their time in something else rather than play cricket.”
Kahn has counter-sued the Calgary Cricket League, alleging defamation and claiming thousands of dollars in income from his time off work while he was working as an unpaid volunteer for the league.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
(With files from Chris Epp)