The country's biggest cricket league is to be sponsored by one of the country's biggest employers. The Robinson Services company has announced it is lending its name to the Northern Cricket Union's Premier and Senior Leagues in a sponsorship deal over the next three years.
The Antrim-based company employs 1700 people and provides services that include cleaning, security, laundry and hygiene. The NCU's Premiership and Senior Leagues involve 35 clubs in counties Antrim, Armagh, Down and parts of Tyrone.
The agreement is seen as another major boost for the local game at the start of a historic year which will see Ireland's entry into international Test cricket.
Robinson Services will also sponsor the prestigious NCU league awards which go to players who score a century, take at least six wickets or perform a hat trick in any of the four leagues.
The company is one of the major success stories of Ulster business. It was started by Antrim man James Robinson over 40 years ago when he took on part time window cleaning to complement his main job on the night shift at the local British Enkalon artificial fibre plant.
The company has developed to a client base of 4,000 - including many of the best known names in the UK - and is now run by Mr Robinson's 49 year old son David. He is also a cricket enthusiast and, like his father, a dedicated clubman at Muckamore where he was once wicket-keeper/captain of the 3rd XI and is now a trustee and a driving force behind the club's commercial interests.
He says: "Our company is seriously committed to community work and have awards for employees who make notable contributions in this area. I see the cricket sponsorship as an extension of that commitment given that sport lies at the heart of the community.
"As a bit of a cricket buff I am also delighted to be directly involved in the development of the game at what is the most exciting time in the history of cricket in Ireland. Ireland's introduction to Test cricket is just around the corner with the first match against Pakistan in May and it will be a tremendous shot in the arm for the sport locally. I hope our support for the NCU at the highest level will in some way help to mould Test players of the future."
The sponsorship has been welcomed by the NCU's chairman, Alan Waite.
He says: "Sponsorship is, of course, the lifeblood of local sport and cricket is no exception. We are, therefore, indebted to Robinson Services for the generous support which will help allow the Union to pursue its plans to develop the men and women's game at various age levels.
"The NCU is also delighted that the company is ensuring the future of the league awards for individual performances. They are highly prized within all the top leagues and players at all levels will be particularly grateful."
Picture Caption: David Robinson (left), managing director of Robinson Services, and Alan Waite, chairman of the Northern Cricket Union, with the NCU’s Premier League trophy which the company will sponsor for the next three years. The Antrim-based company will also be putting its name to the Union’s two Senior Leagues as well as awards throughout the season for players who score a century, take at least six wickets or perform a hat trick.