Scorekeepers quit after safety laws call time on tradition
Brian Richings will no longer be operating the scoreboard at Manuka Oval. Photo: Melissa Adams
After 30 years operating the Jack Fingleton scoreboard at Manuka Oval, Brian Richings and three of his mates have called it a day.
Mr Richings, who started on the previous smaller scoreboard in 1966 and has operated the present one since it was built in 1983, says new requirements to satisfy occupational health and safety regulations means it is no longer enjoyable.
Last year, a safety audit of the scoreboard by the government department in charge of Manuka Oval resulted in a number of changes and improvements to meet the building regulations, but the requirements on the operators was the last straw for them.
"Obviously we weren't allowed to drink alcohol. We're quite OK with that .. but we had to sign in and out of the scoreboard room whenever we went to do so, and we had to do a 'working at heights' course," Mr Richings said.
"That was absolutely stupid. Inside it's pretty much like an office block in that it's enclosed and it's got stairs and handrails and so you don't get everyone that works in a three-storey building to go through a 'working at heights' course."
However, the general manager of Venue and Event Services, Neale Guthrie, says it was the only option to mitigate risk because the scoreboard's operators had to lean over near large openings, without railings, to move names around.
"Health and safety laws talk about reasonable steps, and we have to take all reasonable steps," Mr Guthrie said. "Sorry if they think it's excessive, but that's the world we live in these days."
Mr Richings could see the other side of the coin but, despite requests from cricketers, he wasn't going to change his mind.
"They've got public risk and workers' compensation and all these other things. I suppose I can understand but it just doesn't make it enjoyable," Mr Richings said.
"We were doing it for pleasure and because we've all retired we decided that the signing in and out made it a bit like work. I've been retired near enough 14 years and I'm nearly 70, so I don't need to go back to work.
"After talking to my mates, we decided it's no longer going to be the sociable occasion that it has been over the years and we gave the cricket association our notice that we would do the PM's XI game and the Australia-West Indies [match] and after that they could make their own arrangements."
While they were technically employed and paid to operate the scoreboard, which requires up to seven people, Mr Richings said it mainly covered expenses.
"When I first started we were actually paid [in] cases of beer."
Who, if anyone, might replace the scoreboard operators is still to be discussed, Cricket ACT chief executive Mark Vergano says.
"That's a discussion we've still got to have with the government because it affects not only us; it affects the AFL … so it's a tripartite discussion, which we haven't had the chance to have yet."