A light-hearted look at the completely untrue scandal of umpires' expenses.
A 'duck island', lion tamer's hat and a chauffeuring Panda are among the items claimed on umpires' expenses in the biggest financial scandal to hit cricket for decades.
Public confidence in minor county umpiring has reached an all time low after more damning revelations were published regarding the full extent of local umpires' expenses claims.
This week's Hoggshire Weekly News has printed new details of the extraordinary list of claims paid to umpires by the Hoggshire and District Cricket League's finance committee.
Editor Amos Brearley said: "It's an astonishing catalogue of greed. Most of us find it incredible that such trusted public figures have been systematically abusing the system for so long. Why should local cricket supporters be expected to fund such items as a Billy Big Mouth Bass or for catering packs of Werthers Originals?"
Under long standing finance committee rules Hoggshire league umpires are entitled to claim only expenses accrued in directly performing their duties of officiating games - such as bicycle repair kits or Shipham's Paste. On rare occasions that games finish late or have to be carried over until the next day then umpires are permitted to claim a small allowance to stay in the box room of Mrs. Sugden's B&B near Whitecoat Farm.
But documents seen by the Hoggshire Weekly News show an unbelievable array of expenses claims that stretch into hundreds of pounds.
"It's the accommodation claims that have really shocked our readers the most," said Amos Brearley. "The numbers of umpires that have stayed over at Whitecoat Farm is beyond belief. We found that the vast majority of them stayed there regularly even when it was a lot further out than their own homes and even when they have not been involved in matches. There seems to be something about Mrs. Sugden's hospitality that they find hard to resist."
"How am I expected to do my job properly if everything comes out of my own pocket? The players like it when I wear a crown. It shows authority."
Amongst the other items claimed for by members of the 30 strong umpires list in the county are:
• 75p for a Trill 'Deluxe Seed Bell'
• £3.75 for a bottle of Spanish Fly ointment
• A £19.99 lion tamer's hat
• A £30 bronze statue of Alex Tudor
• £3 CD of 'Masters of the Pan Pipes play Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music'
• 2 pay-per-view films from the Saga Holidays channel: 'Cruising for the over 60s'and 'Travelling the continents with incontinenance.'
• £24 for two tickets for 'An Evening with Hinge (from Hinge and Brackett)'
• £29.98 for a 'Sea Monkey Undersea Castle and Adventure Playground kit'
• £19.50 bottle of 'Dr David's Eternal Youth face cream.'
Umpire Len Fingleton has been the first to publicly apologise for his actions. He claimed for two nights at Whitecoat B&B when his own house backed onto the ground where he had been officiating.
A remorseful Fingleton told Hoggshire Weekly News that he could not go home on those nights because he thought his wife might have contracted Bird Flu.
Fingleton stated: ¨She had been coughing up blood all day and I couldn't risk catching anything off her. I had the Under 15s quarter finals the next day. Also I will be paying back the £1.50 I claimed for the extra sausages I had with my Full English whilst staying there."
Long serving official and local cricket coach Maurice Blair came under particular scrutiny for a £235.93 gardening bill that included £101 for the installation of a 'duck island'.
Blair said he would pay the money back but insisted that he had followed procedures correctly. "The duck island is not just an ornamental garden pond feature; it's actually a highly effective coaching tool. Anyone under my tutelage who gets out without scoring is made to stand on it with my pet Mallard 'Arthur' for up to 24 hours without access to food, drink and practice their forward defensive."
Others have been less contrite. Moses Etheridge, an umpire of 30 years standing, said that he would refuse to pay back any monies.
"How am I expected to do my job properly if everything comes out of my own pocket? The players like it when I wear a crown. It shows authority. Also a sedan chair is the most cost effective way of getting to matches. It doesn't need petrol and you never get a parking ticket. Besides it's good exercise for the under 11s."
Meanwhile, Amos Brearley is unimpressed by the disgraced officials public displays of remorse.
"A lot of people have done very well out of this: Mrs. Sugden, Harry Ramsdens, the manufacturers of Uncle Joe's Mint Balls. There are a lot of angry people out there whose faith in minor counties umpiring has been damaged beyond repair. The next time an umpire turns up for a match with a diamond encrusted light meter and a pocket full of Pontefract Cakes they will be saying to themselves: “I paid for that”."
This article has been reproduced by kind permission of Pleasant Dinners Cricket Club.