Croquet will be here to stay!

Martin Bradshaw (left) and Ian Theakstone in action
Martin Bradshaw (left) and Ian Theakstone in action
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Croquet dying out? Not a chance.

A Blackpool croquet club has spoken out against new statistics suggesting the traditional sport may be dying out.

A recent study commissioned by Pimm’s Cider Cup showed that the croquet is on the decline, along with other British summertime traditions such as making jam, punting, and playing lawn bowls.

But Martin Bradshaw, chairman of the Flyde Croquet Club on Midgeland Road, Marton, challenged the study’s conclusion that 71 per cent of people in Britain had never played the classic sport, which was introduced to Britain from France 400 years ago and has been enjoyed by thousands ever since.

Mr Bradshaw said: “In the last year our membership has actually grown by at least 25 per cent, so we are very pleased about that. It’s a summertime tradition and it does get a bit of exposure by the media.

“The Gazette has given us quite a lot of coverage over the years.

“We are feeling fairly positive about the future.

“We are very fortunate that we have got a lot of people who are so enthusiastic about the sport and give their time to keeping the club running, and long may it continue.

“I find these statistics very hard to believe - most people will have dabbled with croquet during the summer, even if it’s just making up their own rules in their friend’s back garden.

“That’s actually how I got involved, and I have been playing for about 25 or 30 years.

“I’m very surprised by that figure.

“We have three full-sized lawns which we have been improving over the years and we now have just under 40 members. They wouldn’t be playing if they didn’t enjoy it.

“We play competitions in a number of leagues in the North West and some members take the competitive side very seriously.

“We play in five different leagues and we have a match every week or so, either home or away, all within an hour’s drive, and that’s been going on for while a while.”

Despite this, he admitted getting young people interested in croquet was a challenge.

“It does traditionally appeal to the older generation. It’s difficult getting the younger people involved but I think it’s because their lifestyles are so busy. It’s not easy getting new members.”

In a bid to help the struggling sport, Pimm’s Cider Extreme Croquet Cup has been launched to try to reinvigorate players, as both Pimms and croquet celebrating their 165th anniversary this year.

So far games have been played on the slopes of the white cliffs of Dover, a boat on the River Thames and in the View from the Shard.

Launching the cup, Joe Jaques said: “This year marks 165 years since my great-great-grandfather invented croquet and - amazingly - 165 years since Pimm’s was first produced too.

“Back then, croquet was one of the most popular British sports, and I’m so pleased to be involved in encouraging more of the public to try it out.”