CLACTON Cricket Club have been forced to pull out of the Gibbs Denley East Anglian Premier League.
The Seasiders say they can’t afford to compete at such a high level due to a financial settlement with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HRMC).
The tax office are investigating sports clubs up and down the country and, although there is no suggestion of wrongdoing or mismanagement, Clacton were hit with a bill relating to costs and expenses which could run to £10,000.
They have now reached a settlement but, as a result, say they cannot meet their financial obligations to play in the Premier League in 2014.
The club’s committee unanimously agreed to take the drastic action at their annual general meeting on Saturday.
“It’s with great sadness and regret that we’re withdrawing from the Premier League with immediate effect,” said chairman Pierre Oxley.
“We’ve been very proud and privileged to be part of the league since its inception, so it’s not a decision we’ve made lightly.
“However, out of respect to the league and, importantly, the future of our club, we have no choice.
“We argued the points raised and, up until a couple of weeks ago, still thought we had a chance of solving the problem.
“But in the end we didn’t have any other option and we weren’t prepared to run the risk of bankrupting the club.
“It just wouldn’t have been sustainable to keep playing at such a high level.
“We’re totally devastated to even have to consider withdrawing and we’ve made fantastic efforts over many years to improve as a club, both on and off the field.
“We have more than 140 years of cricket history which would have been in serious jeopardy due to the decision made by HMRC.”
Clacton will only be looking to fulfil their Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship division four fixtures in 2014.
However, they hope the Premier League will agree to relegate them at the end of the season, meaning they could play in division one in 2015.
“If this doesn’t happen, it would be another huge kick in the teeth and could represent the death knell of the club,” said Oxley.
“If we hadn’t taken such drastic action, it might have been the end of the club.
“We could have honoured our fixtures and ended up being relegated by putting out a young side and being thrashed every week.
“But we’ve been open and honest and we’re hoping for the support of the local cricket community to help our club recover.”
Oxley said the overall cost of a season in the EAPL is approximately £15,000.
This includes everything from players’ expenses, coaching costs and funding an overseas player.
The Seasiders are thought to be one of only two clubs – all sports, not just cricket – in the UK to have settled with HMRC.
Many others are still in discussions that could see them hit financially.
The EAPL plan to review Clacton’s decision on February 27.