Metro Blind Sport is home to the country’s most successful VI cricket club – but plenty more besides. We pay tribute as the club raises its bat for a well-deserved half-century
In the spring of 1973 a group of eight friends met in a pub in Victoria to discuss what they could do to improve the opportunities for vision-impaired people to participate in recreation and sport in the Greater London area.
At that time, St. Dunstan’s (now Blind Veterans UK) participated in the Stoke Mandeville BSAD games, and there were three or four VI cricket teams operating. There was also a VI football evening class operating at Holland Park School and that was about it!
At that time, most children and young people with a vision impairment were educated in specialist VI schools and colleges where sport and physical recreation was available to all. On leaving school or college there was very little available even in London.
So the eight friends decided that rather than moaning about the lack of provision they would set up a new sports and social club, stuck £5 each into the kitty and thus the Metropolitan Sports and Social Club for the Visually Impaired was formed.
“Metro came to the notice of various celebrities in the cricket world,” recalls Mike Brace, Primary Club trustee and a Metro founder, “and in 1976 only three years after formation, we felt that we needed a president – who better to ask than the voice of cricket Brian Johnston?
“He accepted and thus began an 18-year relationship with a fantastic advocate for the club and what we wanted to do. Brian never ceased to mention Metro and also promoted the Primary Club.
“We have played some incredible matches over the years against wonderful opposition. North Middlesex had Mike Brearley, Ilford Colts had Nasser Hussain, John Lever and John Childs. We had a celebrity XI at Dorton House which included such legends as Derek Underwood, Dennis Amiss, and Patrick Moore.”
These days Metro has a membership base of approximately 400 and offers opportunities to get involved in a wide variety of sports, primarily located within Greater London.
In addition to core sports, which include archery, athletics, bowls, cricket, football, tennis and swimming, Metro Blind Sport plays a vital role in the provision of information about wider sporting opportunities to members and the extended blind and partially sighted community. The charity also supports many other sporting initiatives through partnerships with a vast array of community providers. For example, tandem cycling is also offered in association with Merton Sports and Social Club.
They are also the most successful VI cricket club in the land. “Perhaps we were a bit too competitive, I do not know, but we soon became the team everyone wanted to beat!” says Brace. “At the time of writing Metro have been in the final of the BBS Knockout Cup on 28 occasions and won it 18 times.”