Four of the Founding Fathers of the Professional Cricketers’ Association will be reunited at the Cheltenham Cricket Festival on July 4.
Former England and Worcestershire left-arm paceman Fred Rumsey, whose idea it was to form the players’ union, Eric Russell, the former Middlesex and England batsman, former Glamorgan off-spinner Don Shepherd and Mike Smedley, the former Nottinghamshire batsman, all attended the inaugural meeting of the Association at the offices of the ‘Daily Express’ in London’s Fleet Street in November 1967.
Despite opposition from the cricketing establishment of the day, but with the help of the Professional Footballers’ Association, the Cricketers’ Association – the organisation became the PCA in 1996 – was formed with the aims of improving conditions for professional cricketers at a time when their salaries were below the national average, contracts were for six months with no guarantee of winter employment and there were no insurance or pension schemes.
The PCA may be unrecognisable now to the one that Rumsey envisaged but his contribution and that of the other pioneers who established the Association almost 50 years ago will never be forgotten.
As part of the PCA’s 50th Anniversary celebrations Rumsey, Russell, Shepherd and Smedley along with Harold Goldblatt, who played a significant behind-the-scenes role in the organisation’s formative years, will be guests of honour at the annual Past Players’ Day which will take place at Cheltenham on the second day of Gloucestershire’s Specsavers County Championship match against Glamorgan.
Sadly five of the PCA’s Founding Fathers – Ian Buxton (Derbyshire), Danny Livingstone (Hampshire), Jack Bannister (Warwickshire), Arthur Milton (Gloucestershire) and David Sayer (Kent) – have passed away.
The other county representatives who attended the historic meeting in Fleet Street – Tony Jorden (Essex), Alan Oakman (Sussex), Terry Spencer (Leicestershire), Jack Bond (Lancashire), Ken Taylor (Yorkshire), Mike Edwards (Surrey) and Roger Prideaux (Northamptonshire) – will not be able to join the celebrations at Cheltenham next week.
Ron Headley, Worcestershire’s representative in 1967, was unable to attend the inaugural meeting.
But around 100 more former players from across the generations, all of whom have benefited in some way from the foundations laid by Rumsey, Russell, Shepherd and Smedley.
“Current players owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who worked so hard to establish what became the PCA half a century ago,” said PCA Chief Executive and former Worcestershire CEO David Leatherdale.
“Thanks to Fred Rumsey’s vision and the courage and support of those who attended that historic meeting in November 1967, despite considerable opposition from the cricket authorities, county cricketers have enjoyed much improved employment conditions and the benefits of an organisation that can support them not just through their playing career but throughout their life.
“None of that would have been possible without the determination of the pioneers who responded to Fred’s letter and attended the inaugural meeting.
“We are delighted that Fred, Eric, Don, Mike and Harold are able to join us at Cheltenham where we will pay tribute to their contributions to the PCA, celebrate those other Founding Fathers that cannot join us and remember Jack Bannister, Ian Buxton, Danny Livingstone, Arthur Milton and David Sayer."
To mark the PCA’s 50th Anniversary a Legacy Year Appeal has been launched to raise £250,000 for the PCA Benevolent Fund which was established in 2000.
The Benevolent Fund, which is generously supported by Royal London, provides help for current and former cricketers and their immediate family members in times of hardship and upheaval or to readjust to the world beyond the game.
Among those attending the PCA Past Players’ Day at Cheltenham next Tuesday are former Worcestershire Test players Younis Ahmed, Norman Gifford, Vanburn Holder and Neal Radford plus Alan Brown, Chris Cowdrey, Winston Davis, Graeme Fowler, John Jameson, John Murray, Ken Palmer, Pat Pocock, Harold Rhodes, Dick Richardson, Ken Shuttleworth, MJK Smith, David Steele, Roy Swetman and Bob Taylor.