The White Stuff: Local leagues left in limbo over cricket changes across Yorkshire

The White Stuff
The White Stuff
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The aim is clear. Yorkshire want to reverse the national trend of a decline in participation, curb the stark rise in conceded matches and frankly, get a game on for as many people as possible.

The new incentive to become the best club in Yorkshire is one that will provide a huge incentive to the top clubs around the White Rose currently.

It will transform the Yorkshire League into a vibrant format, with the incentives to play on the hallowed turf at Headingley a carrot of aspiration for many.

For Yorkshire, and its top teams, there are many benefits. Ambitious players will swarm to the clubs in with a shot at playing in the Super League tiers and the overall standard of those leagues will no doubt increase. Promotion and relegation will recreate an interest in the top Yorkshire League clubs such as Harrogate, York and the Yorkshire Academy, and provide a local game closer to what it should be.

But the new structure does seem to have left out where the actual problems in low participation is falling - the majority of teams plying their trade in the traditional leagues that bring so much enjoyment across our villages.

The Aire-Wharfe, Nidderdale and Wetherby League have been left in limbo – and clubs alike, already facing growing challenges of player recruitment, will have even more difficulties to overcome.

It is already a struggle to keep hold of players that want to test themselves in leagues, such as the York Senior League (YSL) which will soon become a feeder league into the North Yorkshire Premier. Surely this will only get worse when players are sweet-talked over buying into what might turn out to be the impossible dream.

My club, Rufforth CC of the Wetherby League, were almost crippled when eight members of the first team left for a new challenge. Thankfully, we survived an ever-so-near closure and have now got a membership back up to more than 40 senior players – with record numbers at winter nets and a growing enthusiasm about what we can achieve together.

My fear is that the new proposals could lead to this situation happening for more clubs over the next few years.

So what options do these leagues face ahead of the changes?

It looks likely that no changes will be made to the village leagues until 2017 at the earliest. But when they do, these league could offer themselves as a feeder league to the secondary tiers – with the top of the table promoted each year. Again, won’t that diminish from what these leagues currently offer?

I sat at the Wetherby League annual general meeting on Tuesday night to hear the realistic option of completely ignoring the changes, and carrying on ‘as we are’ so to speak.

Will that work to arrest the player shortages? I don’t think so.

It just seems a double-edged sword. Without change, the decline in numbers will only continue – with it, the traditions and beauty of the local game that we love could become inconsequential.

HAVE YOUR SAY

How will the proposed shake-up affect clubs in the traditional village leagues?

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There is no doubt the proposed changes to the structure of cricket across Yorkshire will radically shake-up the game when they come into force next year.