Southend cricket ground provides a lasting legacy to Peter

A former Essex County Cricket festival venue has been renamed in honour of the man who devoted so much time towards numerous sports projects throughout the county and into the capital.

Former Essex County Cricket Club Board Member, Peter Butler, sadly passed away in November 2021. Mr Butler and his Sports Trust, EASST, championed numerous projects and are renowned as major sponsors and promoters of Youth Sports Development all over Essex and East London.

Easst contributed well over £750,000 to the Southend-based Garon Park site over the past thirty years. And ahead of Essex’s Second XI T20, South Group clash with their Surrey counterparts, the ground was retitled The Peter Butler Oval following a lunch ceremony held in the Boundary Marque at the wonderfully landscaped seaside venue.

Essex staged first-class cricket at the ground between 2005 and 2011, while the Netherlands have regularly staged fixtures on the ground which is now home to Hamro Foundation Essex League club, Old Southendian & Southchurch.

Essex County Cricket Club Chief Executive and Interim Chair, John Stephenson, said: “I’m pleased to hear the news that Garon Park has officially been renamed The Peter Butler Oval.
“Aside from Chelmsford, Garon Park is one of our most used grounds across all of our teams at Essex County Cricket Club. We’ve been playing there for almost 20 years and so many Essex heroes have honed their skills at the venue.
“Last year we received the devastating news that former Board Member, Peter Butler, had passed away.
“Peter was an extremely kind and generous man who was not only a lifelong supporter of Essex County Cricket Club but of cricket and sport in general. His passion was evident for everyone to see in his ongoing charity work as Chairman of Essex and Southend Sports Trust, which supported and funded sports initiatives and projects in the region.
“Therefore it seems very fitting that Garon Park should be renamed after somebody who gave an awful lot for both this Club and sports within the County.”

Despite Essex concentrating on first-team matters from Chelmsford, Peter’s enthusiasm for Essex Cricket never wavered. In return, the Club has regularly continued to stage development matches with their Second XI, Women’s and Ability Teams still regular visitors to the ground.

Peter joined the Board of Garon Park CIC. His enthusiasm and sound business sense added a renewed vitality around the site. Collectively, the creative energy helped raise £1.7m to regenerate the site into the impressive facility visible today.

Nevertheless, this is far from the end of the story. The Board has big plans for the area and Peter was fully supportive of all the initiatives.

Managing Director of Garon Park CIC, Clive Shiret, enthused: “Peter had a great affinity for local sport and particularly youth development. His energy and enthusiasm lifted and inspired us all.

“He was a man of principle throughout his business and social life but was never a self-publicist and his selfless work goes largely unrecognised.

“We, his friends, recognise just how great and strategic his contribution has been to the community. This lunch has been organised as a small symbol of appreciation for all his efforts.”

Peter’s daughter, Rachel, said: “I loved coming down here during the early days with the Essex festivals, it was such a good day out and a beautiful ground to watch cricket.
“And what this place has become since is just magical, it’s a huge credit to Clive and the Garon Park community interest company, and the community is so incredibly lucky to have such a facility in Southend.
“It really feels like the home of EASST here and embodies what EASST is all about.
“For those who are not aware I was made a trustee in 2020, joining Joe and my Mum Linley as trustees and my brother Simon was made a trustee this year.
“Dad set up EASST 20 years ago. This was his big passion, wanting to give back by putting his earnings to work and helping the communities of Southend and Essex in accessing and developing sport. What he has achieved with EASST over that time he can be incredibly proud of.
“And Dad would be totally overwhelmed and humbled by this incredible gesture we are here for today. His wish was that EASST would be the legacy he would leave behind and this highlights just what a legacy that is.
“We look forward to continuing to support the amazing work here and help ensure my dad’s next ambition for Garon Park of opening an indoor cricket school becomes a reality.”

Meanwhile, my life-long friend, Joe Sims, added: “Peter and I were huge Essex and Southend United supporters and watched the games together through the ups and downs. We also served together on the Southend Cricket Festival committee.

“I recall us having a wonderful time at the World Cup. The German team stopped at our hotel. They were wonderful ambassadors and we had a terrific evening.

“Everything was an adventure. Peter was a great friend. We all miss him dearly.”

Brian Jeeves

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