Rood en Wit Haarlem pulls out of Women's Hoofdklasse
In a move which should shock Dutch cricket to its foundations, the Haarlem club Rood en Wit has withdrawn from the Women’s Hoofdklasse because it is unable to find sufficient players to field a team on a regular basis.
It is difficult to exaggerate the extent of the slide which this represents, or the threat which it implies to the long-term future of the women’s game in the Netherlands.
Not only has Rood en Wit won the women’s national championship more often than any other club, but the most recent of those titles came in 2007. Even the following year, Rood en Wit headed the table for much of the season, only to be pipped by Quick Haag in the play-off phase.
That side boasted a galaxy of internationals, including Pauline te Beest, Violet Wattenburg, Annemarie Tanke and Cheraldine Oudolf, but with their retirement there has been an insufficient number of younger talents to sustain the team.
This is all the more disturbing because for a number of years Rood en Wit has had one of the most successful youth programmes in the country, and yet it has proved impossible to turn that into the basis for a senior women’s side.
In an article in the club magazine Spriet, Rood en Wit chairman Michel Derckx acknowledges that ‘in the golden years of women’s cricket, little attention was paid to the supply of girl players.’
Derckx adds that for many years the club attracted no new young players, and more recently they have been unable to retain enough of the girls who started playing the game.
’We just don’t have enough women players,’ he concludes, ‘now and in the pipeline.
The club is determined to reverse this historic decline and is calling on all those who have an interest in the game to join in a rebuilding programme, but it seems unlikely that this will be accomplished overnight.
In the meantime, there is a serious question regarding the immediate future of those younger Rood en Wit players who no longer have a team, including national development squad members like Heather Siegers and Coco Steenstra Toussaint. It would be little short of disastrous if they were now to be denied the opportunity to play club cricket for the rest of this season.
No less disturbing are the indications that Hermes-DVS Schiedam is also having difficulty fielding a second team, with five of their six Eerste Klasse matches having been postponed. Like Rood en Wit, Hermes has been one of the strongest bastions of the women’s game, and their plight is further proof that the future of women’s cricket in the Netherlands is far from secure.
After years of complacency and neglect at both national and club level, the KNCB has made considerable progress in the past couple of years in organising national girls’ squads and a more substantial programme of matches for the development side.
Initiatives like the Bilingual Schools Challenge, too, have generated enthusiasm for the sport among both boys and girls, in many cases in areas where there is at present no local club.
But the collapse of women’s cricket at Rood en Wit and its endangered position elsewhere leaves one wondering whether these measures are enough, and whether they have come too late. It is not only in Haarlem that massive efforts will be needed to restore the game to the prosperity it once had.