The CCC has decided to make this a singular issue Newsletter, the topic having acquired an immediacy and intensity of debate as a result of an open letter from a small club in the lower levels of the Hertfordshire league who admitted to being unable to put together enough players to fulfil their two Saturday league fixtures, and were forced to concede both.
This Pandora’s Box was opened by Bayford and Hertford CC who conceded both their games in divisions 3B and 10 East – despite having registered over 100 players with the Herts League at the beginning of the season.
It transpired that 12 other clubs conceded fixtures over the same weekend in Hertfordshire, and this was mirrored in Cornwall, Hampshire, Wiltshire, and Somerset – and – given the number of social media requests from across the country, we may surmise that there is a disturbing trend at the lower end of the club cricket league structure. The picture was then repeated for the second weekend in a row.
During this period NCC has been active in acquiring data and has a lively social media dialogue across the country, as well having contributed to a Radio Essex programme covering distressed clubs in the region.
As Cricket Clubs we start our lives with the ethos of wanting to play cricket.
We then morph into trying to be better at cricket and, at the same time, we try to provide the best facilities we can to sustain our cricketing aims.
Then we join Leagues to further sustain the competitive edge to our game, and those Leagues develop rules which make sure that the games we play are fair and equitable.
And this has been so for the past 9 generations since The Gentlemen of Hambledon graced our pitches.
Then we find that, in some cases, enthusiasm for the game is a diminishing asset and so we want to change the bases under which we wish to play.
But the Leagues, to which we have associated ourselves, are entrenched within their rules and, because they can, they prevent us from being flexible in our attitudes.
So, how do we react, with responsibility for the youth and future of cricket in our grasp, without appearing to be wrecking the infrastructure which we helped to put into place?
There is a strange dichotomy in the world of Club Cricket at the moment.
On the one hand there are more registered players across the country than ever.
On the other, we have cricket clubs unable to fulfil their fixtures due to lack of players.
We know that the pandemic has had an odd consequence of Big Clubs getting bigger. Equally we are aware that the individuality of Clubs does not easily accommodate a “sharing” mentality.
Surely now is the time to break the vicious circle and look for equitable and sensible solutions so that smaller Clubs can retain their core values?
Hertfordshire is one of the largest Leagues in the country when it comes to numbers of clubs and divisions in its remit. The Herts League has already taken steps so that clubs in some of the lower divisions are able to have duplicate registrations by local region – but few clubs know about it.
Yet there are over 3000 cricketers registered in Hertfordshire. How many of those registered are “regular” players, and how many of the “regular” players did not get a game last weekend?
If a large club with three or more teams has an excess of say, 3 players on an any given Wednesday or Thursday, how can they tell other local clubs that they have players for loan purposes? And in any case are they willing to do so?
But even if they were so disposed, how would they know which clubs to contact if they had either an excess or a shortfall? And would the Leagues condone such actions?
What appears to be required is to establish a central player register of both players and clubs, county by county and league by league, with availability on a weekly basis. The envisaged system can only work for extremely small geographical areas and should only reflect the situations in the lowest 20% of divisions in Leagues. Preferably, clubs will pre-nominate the other clubs in their locality (not necessarily in their own League) to the central register for speed of response.
The National Cricket Conference has a remit from the ECB to “Find a Player – Find a Club” and we are making sure that we have the resource to make that work. We are preparing a “forum” facility on our website where we can alert specific parties to either scarcity or glut.
Find a Player Find a Club
It requires a flexibility from the Leagues to allow cross registration abilities, not just within leagues but by geographical proximity. We can envisage a system evolving as in Hertfordshire but with modifications. The process is only workable on a very localised basis, as well as it being marketed correctly and openly.
This innovative process can only succeed if the Family of Cricket acknowledges this as a need to be implemented from the bottom up, but it will have to change the terms of its Will. The NCC is available to write and enact the codicil, and we would like to do it as soon as possible – but only within a cooperative environment, encouraged and promoted by our major stakeholders – County Boards, Leagues and Clubs.
Watch this space.
Any thoughts ? Email them to Robbie Brook : firstname.lastname@example.org