On Teas

 

This article aims to set the issue of teas into some sort of contextual and analytical framework. Specifically, at issue is the WBCC’s proposal that compulsory club provided teas mandated by the DCCL be abolished. To a lesser extent, it aims to give due consideration to the article of 12 September 2014 by Mr Madden published under ‘Captain’s Blog’. This does not seek to posit one side over the other, but to provide thoughts on tea with some sort of structure and coherence. It does this by delineating what is and what is not at stake, by applying the concepts of sufficiency and necessity to the issue, and by assessing teas in terms of value. It does not aim to demonstrate the problem of tea as currently provisioned – that is a different discussion – but it intends to demonstrate that the process of provision is distinct from tea itself, and that this process is mutable without necessarily causing undue harm to tea. If one line of argument presents itself more strongly than others, it is hoped that this is due to the rigours of reason derived from critical faculty rather than being a consequence of proclivities which may compromise prerequisite objectivity. In the net assessment, this article finds the criticisms posited thus far somewhat lacking, but implicitly anticipates the pursuit of more robust, comprehensive, and decisive reasoning that better illuminates the issue. 

 

 

I

It is imperative that the reader understands a number of peripheral though nonetheless vitally important points before the central issue is properly unpacked. Although this article is the work of the Secretary, it has not been undertaken without a good degree of introspective reflection. Firstly, it is not proper that the Secretary posit the advantages of a course of action pertaining to either an issue or point of policy on which the Executive Committee has already ruled; therefore this shall not be done. Indeed, some may even assert that it is not for the Secretary to become involved in such discussions beyond the appropriate fora. Against this view is ranged the intrinsic requirement to do what might be vulgarly termed ‘the right thing’. Where there is uncertainty, the utmost must be done to bring about clarity in both depth and breadth of insight. By doing so, decision- and policy-making can be properly examined, scrutinized, and tested. Where criticism is undue, it must be repudiated and where it is incisive and constructive, it must be taken into due consideration. How else can a servant of the Club be true to their own intentions? Engagement is therefore not to be shirked, but to be indulged for the good of the Club – that is, the collective object. What better forum for this is there than one of wide accessibility?

 

It must also be understood that a committee’s collective comprehension is a complex thing. It is often premised upon broad contingencies and extreme divergences. Indeed, the adumbrated official view can be inherently unrepresentative of the virtually imponderable unofficial view. Therefore, any pretension in the direction of the monolithic is a simplification which aims to court the prerequisite consent from which progress might follow. This is a practical need. In reality, dissent is the natural corollary; although its nature, extent, and constituent elements are ephemeral and transient – varying between times, places, people, and issues. In an establishment which actively seeks to at least affect an air of democracy, dissent simply must be recognised and indulged. Ultimately, no didactic views are presented here; the purpose is only to provide some form of framework. Even if there were didactic views posited, there is no way these could speak on behalf of the august committee. If any of this article is deemed unconstitutional, then impeachment is the Club’s only option.

 

II

 

Heuristically speaking, when it comes to policy making, it is of utility to understand precisely what is not decided or agreed, as well as what is. To this end, the issue’s boundaries demand exploration, while the issue itself must be clearly defined. What, then, is meant by compulsory club-provided teas? It is the Club’s responsibility both to fund and procure, as well as to directly supply and provide food and refreshment to the participating players and officials in the form of tea on match days. It is this series of precepts alone on which the proposal seeks to take issue. The question implicitly posed is: to what extent should it necessarily be the responsibility of the clubs to provide teas? It is this question which the individual must seek to answer for themselves, and it must satisfy their own critical judgement absolutely. There are value-judgements to be made, to which the article will return. The Committee has given its collective official response to this, but not without dissent.

 

Furthermore, it is important to understand the boundaries of any policy so informed. What is not at issue here are match fees, playing member subscriptions, or general issues of fundraising broadly defined. Those are different arguments for committee and club members to have. Moreover, the proposal does not challenge the concept, practice, or institution of tea-time on match days. Nor does it make redundant the valuable voluntary contributions of those conventionally termed ‘tea-ladies’. These are crucial points that must be appreciated. It is limiting – not to mention unfounded – to conceive a necessary and interdependent relationship between tea-time, tea-ladies, and tea on the one-hand with the provision of tea thereof by the club on the other. Certainly, the assumption prima facie that tea-time and tea-ladies pre-require the existence of tea seems not unreasonable. To extend that assumption to the belief that tea must be provided by the clubs is an unwarranted leap of faith. Put simply, the origins of tea are a distinct and largely discrete issue for which the proposal has implications, but it does not interdict all possible methods of provision. Even more simply, a ‘packed lunch’ can suffice for tea just as easily as a banquet manufactured by the clubs, but only if subjective and arbitrary presumptions can be extirpated.

 

The discussion requires some further expansion with regard to the implications of current and possible future practice. The key word in the whole issue is the word ‘compulsory’. Certain levels of expectation exist regarding the level to which cricket teas should be provided. Whilst significant quantitative and qualitative variation in club-provided tea evinces itself across the League, it is tacitly implied that there are bare-minima – boundaries which a club should not transgress if it wishes to be a ‘good’ DCCL member. Whether the League could better specify or define teas is again a separate issue. Minimal boundaries cut in directions of both quantity and variety. The consequences seem fairly uniform in the sense that, relative to demand, some foodstuffs are under-provisioned whilst others are provided in excess. For instance, how much low-demand foodstuffs do clubs feel compelled to procure in order that they appear to ‘comply’ with statutory directives and the expectations they produce, and how much of this goes to waste? How much of that wasted food represents wastage of good club investment? Here, an ethical-agrarian quagmire is filled by an economic compost-heap, while both exist in an environment apparently intellectually moribund, devoid of rational, and which is morally barren.

 

Alternatively, the implications consequential to the expunging of the word ‘compulsory’ from the linguistic framework for the provision of teas could feasibly entrain opportunities. No longer would it be necessary for the clubs to pitch tea at a certain predetermined quality level. Clubs would be empowered by the freedom to procure only the more highly demanded foodstuffs in much smaller quantities to augment a packed lunch. All this could be sold for profit. Hypothetically, if the food procured was inadequately prepared or served, or if it were inadequate in and of itself, then the club in that instance could make a loss – or at least make no profit, or profit would not be maximised. Such a club would therefore be compelled to rethink its strategy. Alternatively, the clubs could cease providing tea altogether. The freedom and the choice would be theirs, along with the potentially expanded fundraising capacity. Moreover, those volunteers who prepare and serve food would have a less demanding role which could potentially negate or at least reduce the exigencies of the task. The job of ‘tea-lady’ would be less intrinsically dissuasive or perturbing to potential volunteers. Meanwhile, all efforts now made in the direction of tea would equate to a commensurate increase in profit opportunities for the simple reason that more time could be spent selling the products that make money; effectively, the very activity of tea-making itself could become either partly or wholly self-sustaining financially – perhaps even profitable. At the very least, it would be at much lower cost. Again, to put it simply, the corollary would be greater operational freedom for club management and decision making, coupled with greater fundraising opportunities, all underpinned by free-market forces. Thus, the question raised by this line of reasoning is; why, necessarily, must the abolition of compulsory club-provided teas be a financially terrifying prospect?

 

Fundamentally, a club must make its policy on rational grounds. Within this schematic, why should anything be considered sacred or sacrosanct? This would only limit potential decision making and management’s freedom of action. Only one thing is sacred to a Cricket Club, and that is the pursuit of Cricket itself – to that must all its will bend. A link of sufficiency between tea and cricket would make the two equally sacred, beyond reproach, and above question. It is impossible to demonstrate such a link; a plate of tea does not a cricket match make. Failing sufficiency, it must be shown that tea is necessary to the pursuit of cricket. Although it is not impossible to demonstrate this link, it is well nigh impossible to demonstrate it to any extent that may justify placing the existing scheme above reproach. Cricket matches can be played without recourse to tea; it happens all the time. On the other hand, both umpires and scorers are necessary to the pursuit of competitive cricket, and therefore any comparison between them and teas is utterly invalid. Conceptually speaking, there is no reason to accept that the convention of tea is in any substantive way essential to cricket. By extension, it should be interrogated irreverentially during policy formulation. Of course, no one really claims that such links between cricket and tea actually exist. The arguments which have arisen have stemmed from the concept of ‘quintessence’. Here, subjectivity is absolute monarch. To resort to such an argument would be equivalent to arguing from tradition and convention; it is to hanker nostalgically after a departed social order – a lost piece of Albion that is at any rate beyond humanity’s capacity to restore. Therefore, as a line of argument, nostalgia can only be considered wholly insufficient. There is absolutely no reason to perceive tea itself in terms of being a special case. Indeed, it is possible to conceive dissolving the convention completely, although no designs in this direction exist.

 

Finally, in order that the formulation of policy be to some extent comprehensive, it is not only necessary to consider income, but also to consider cost. Income has been considered already. The conclusion was that no real reason exists for why the abolition of compulsory club-provided teas should only be deleterious to potential income, and that the effects were more likely to be neutral or positive in nature. Decisions cannot be taken without regard to the operational ideal which entertains above average match-day costs. In order to manage responsibly, clubs must consider the cost of this operational ideal because they themselves have very limited influence on when it is achieved. Indeed, whether or not there are two umpires, scorers and teas on a match day is itself a contingent issue, causally speaking. In terms of cost, tea has to be considered, especially if its priority cannot be quantified in any conceptual sense. The money that goes into it is as much an expense as the money that goes into sight screens, covers, the square, the outfield, practice equipment and sessions, the maintenance of property etc., none of which can be sacrificed without a subsequent degrading of the qualitative aspects of cricket. In part, the club exists to provide these items. Teas need not be seen in the same vein given that quality need not be forsaken, because different methods of procurement and provision of tea can be pursued.

 

III

 

As was alluded to earlier, when it comes to the provision of teas at senior cricket matches, there are value-judgements to be made. Central among these is the need to determine any implicit sacrifices made by either altering current practice or carrying on regardless, and to what extent these sacrifices encroach on the hinterland of cricketing culture. Such discourse as this precipitates should be informed by the conceptual framework adumbrated above. Indeed, they are likely to parallel the course of the discussion thus far. The decision makers, for all their general conservatism in cricket, cannot afford to be trapped by inductive perceptions and presuppositions that the prevailing culture, convention, tradition, and ‘received wisdom’ induce. Simply because it has always been apparent that teas are of immeasurable import to cricketing culture and practice does not in itself validate assertions that tea is critically important to cricket. Such assertions are subjective value statements, not statements of truth. That is to say, without recourse to testable empirical evidence or objective qualification, the assertion that compulsory club-provided teas are vital to the pursuit of cricket means nothing more than the fact that the person making the assertion believes that assertion to be true. Naturally, the same logic operates vice versa – that is, it works for assertions to the contrary belief.

 

In order that the value of tea be correctly appraised, it is first necessary to assess what value they add to match days and to cricket as a whole. Naturally, it would be irrational to expect participants to go without refreshment for the duration of a match of eighty overs or more. In that sense, there is a priori an intrinsic value to tea. But, tea here could easily be substituted for any refreshment. That said, tea is a little more specific and its implications induce certain levels of expectation. Beyond that, it becomes more esoteric, because this intrinsic and fundamental base-value could be undermined easily by the provision of tea which is qualitatively and quantitatively inadequate – that is to say that, either the procedures for provision, or the cenatory foodstuffs themselves can undermine tea. It is apparent that this can occur without low attainment being insufficient for requirements which are themselves largely unspecified. In that sense, qualitative and quantitative issues are contingent to the value of tea as delivered, and this contingent relationship is somewhat dynamic. Increasing the values of quality and quantity increases the value of tea. Conversely, reducing the quantitative and qualitative levels can reduce the value of tea, even to the point of undermining its intrinsic practical worth. To apply this thinking in a practical sense, players will no doubt be aware of the pleasure derived from seeing a tea buffet to which the sobriquet "high" can be justifiably attributed in both quantitative and qualitative terms. It reflects highly on the sport and its participating individuals, organisations, and institutions. If those same criteria can be appraised as being poor, then the effect is very different. Poor tea is burdensome: an experience to be endured or avoided rather than enjoyed. This is not constructive. Indeed, under such conditions, the practice is counter-productive and even undermining of cricket.

 

It is a demonstrable and an empirical fact that not all clubs can provide to the highest standards consistently. In fact, plumbing the depths has become far more prevalent across the DCCL. Clubs are not caterers and such demands as are made are exigent or prohibitive in real or sweat-equity. If tea is of value, then how it is supplied and provisioned are important issues contingent to that value, and it is not necessarily safe from this perspective to leave the responsibility in the hands of the clubs.

 

IV

 

This article is intentionally dispassionate and objective, seeking to give some shape to the issue via reasoned consideration and critical judgement. If the article appears unduly self-consciously aware of this aim, this is simply a result of efforts to mitigate any misinterpretation of its intent as a coup d’état against the committee. Not withstanding this, it should have been demonstrated that it is only the provision of tea which is at issue. Even if tea itself were at stake there should really be no reason to worry unduly. Indeed, the provision of tea as practised and the concept of tea itself have no element that make either of them intrinsically beyond reproach, questioning, improvement, and adaptation. In order to ensure that wastage is constrained to the bare minimum, scrutiny needs to be effected. In fact, there is no reason a priori to believe that the club is the best vector for provision and there is as much reason to believe that the individual is best left to cater for themselves to a basic level with respect to their own requirements. Furthermore, under this scheme, the club has a greater opportunity to buy and sell for profit, serving to augment that which the individual can provision for themselves. For clubs without the resources to do this, there would be no statutory pressure to do the difficult or the impractical. Flexibility would be implicit in such a system; a club can provide extra where and when practicable and there would be no requirement to consistently meet criteria that are arbitrary and subjective anyway. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that there would no longer be a place for those valuable voluntary contributors traditionally referred to as ‘tea ladies’. Moreover, who fills this role is the subject for another discussion. So, too, are the issues of subscriptions and levees – the latter, its reason d’être, its strata, and its level, are entirely for the committee to decide. Ultimately, the added value that tea provides is an ephemeral and contingent issue. There is more than sufficient reason to believe that, in terms of value, the prevalent system is wanting. Perversely, some of those reasons have been given in argument from nostalgia against the proposed changes. Hopefully, this article has served to an extent to correct some of that cognitive dissonance.

 

To conclude, as a member of the Club, a stake holder of the League, and a lover or practitioner of the great game, you owe it to yourself to be involved, not necessarily just in this issue, but in management as a whole. Not everyone need become a committee member. Simply by talking, debating, discussing and hypothesising – even just by contemplating management issues – you are becoming involved to a greater or lesser extent. If you wish to see change in the prevailing policy synthesis, the options open to you are canvassing and lobbying officials and committee members, volunteering or nominating candidates for management roles, and turning out at AGM. If you do not like what you hear or read, you simply must become more involved. Alternatively, you forfeit your own democratic authority and responsibility. None of this should be dismissed as mere platitude. There will be big issues at stake from the outset of 2015, and the conveyor will move forward irrespective of whether or not you are on board.

  

To those who have read this far, my undying appreciation and gratitude are extended. Now go forth and act.

To those who feel I have written too much or too little, my apologies.

PMC

 

 

 

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