The decades-long tradition of cricket clubs offering tea to visitors, players and match officials is at risk of dying as more than 100 clubs are forced to abandon their staples during the game over food safety concerns.
Cricket leagues say their members are worried about being sued if someone has an allergic reaction and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has not issued any official guidance on the matter.
The governing body declined to comment on the issue on Sunday, but says on its website that all food companies are required to provide allergen information about the food they serve.
However, many remain concerned about the lack of clarity about their food safety status, and committees are concerned about who might be held liable if someone has an allergic reaction to a sandwich, cake or pastry.
Mike Mitchelson, 70, chairman of the Eden Valley Cricket League, which covers Cumbria and southern Scotland, has told its 42 clubs they should stop hosting tees to protect them from a “possible liability situation”.
He said: “I have to say that nobody on the committee is comfortable with having to sit out teas.
“Many clubs rely on players, wives and partners to make tea and that makes it difficult to get official guidance.
“I really want them (ECB) to give all cricket clubs clear guidance on food hygiene and allergy laws and how clubs can be supported to ensure they can offer tees in a safe way without the risk that someone gets sued. ”
The ECB said it has no plans to issue guidelines on how clubs should prepare their teas, stressing that it is up to each individual club to decide whether to host them.
“No one wants a ruffled sandwich”
Cumbria Cricket League Secretary Peter Gardiner, 61, said around three-quarters of its members had decided to stop offering teas.
“It’s too difficult for them (ECB) to make a decision as far as the league is concerned,” he said.
“They just kicked it out in the long grass and hoped each league would try to find a solution.”
It has become a struggle for some clubs to even put on a tea as the “tea ladies” dwindle to organize distribution, he added.
Also, after two years of Covid-related restrictions, it has become the norm at many clubs for players to bring their own food and drink to matches, with some now reluctant to return to traditional tea.
In 2020 England’s biggest league, the Sussex Cricket League, which comprises 335 teams from 140 clubs, decided it would no longer be mandatory to serve refreshments to players between innings.
But after the move sparked uproar, a re-vote resulted in the original decision being overturned by a vote of 114 to 82.
League chairman Gary Stanley told BBC Sport at the time: “Decades ago there was the curious idea that every club had a lady who made their teams’ teas out of love.
“There are clubs that are lucky, but many aren’t, and it’s often a question of ‘which player will make it this week?’
“As a result, frankly, you get some bad teas. I’m sure some clubs get annoyed when they come home with a great tea and rolled sandwich and a pack of cheap chips.”