European countries step up in Dubai
Three new European Affiliate members were admitted to the ICC at its Annual Conference this week, with Bulgaria, Estonia and Turkey bringing the world body's membership up to 104.
The Conference also agreed to grant Associate Membership to Guernsey, bringing the total number of Associates up to 34. Twelve of the Associates are from the European region.
The decision to promote Guernsey to Associate status, three years after it was granted Affiliate Membership, is in recognition of the progress made in cricket on the island, both on and off the field.
Of particular note is the success of the national youth sides, which emphasise the quality of the youth development programme that the Guernsey Cricket Board (GCB) has put in place. In 2007 Guernsey won the ICC European U15 Division 2 Championship, beating nine other European Associate and Affiliate Members, and finished second and third in the European U19 Division 2 and U23 Division 2 respectively.
As a result Guernsey, along with neighbours and fellow-Associates Jersey, have been promoted to Division 1 for this year's U15 and U17 championships.
Guernsey hosted an extremely successful U23 Division 2 championship last year, and will hold this year's ICC European Division 2 Championship.
Commenting on the news ICC Regional Development Manager, Richard Holdsworth said: 'Cricket is a well established sport in Guernsey and it is fitting that after only three years of ICC Affiliate Membership the country has been promoted to an Associate Member.
'The infrastructure on the island has developed well in recent years with good support of local sponsors and government organisations. Their excellent facilities, including grass pitches and a new indoor cricket centre, will help them to further develop at international level.'
He added: 'This is a credit to the hard work of the Guernsey Cricket Board and in particular its Chairman David Piesing. Guernsey Cricket should be very proud of itself.'
Bulgaria , Estonia and Turkey were the only countries to apply for Affiliate Membership this year and all three applications were successful.
The Bulgarian Cricket Federation ( BCF ) was founded in 2002 when it became recognised by the Bulgarian Ministry of Sport as one of its ‘new' sports. With the aim of developing the game throughout the country the BCF formed a development programme which makes youth development its main priority.
Based at Bulgaria 's National Sports Academy in capital city Sofia, the BCF has six member clubs which compete in a league playing on some of Bulgaria 's five grounds. It also has a national team and a development programme for women's cricket.
The Bulgarian national team made its international debut when it participated in the 2004 European Representatives Championship in Slovenia .
The Estonian Cricket Association (ECA) was set up in 2001 by a small group of cricket enthusiasts and over the past seven years has grown to a playing strength of over 80. It has become a popular touring venue, with more than 65 teams visiting from over 10 different countries.
Four domestic teams play in a national league, and it also has a strong national team which is aspiring to compete in the ICC European Division 4 Championship in 2009. As part of its development program the ECA runs a winter coaching programme and has junior cricket at the top of its agenda with plans to run summer schools and Kwik Cricket tournaments.
Cricket in Turkey was recognised by the Turkish government in December 2006 when the newly-formed Turkish Cricket Board (TCB) became a member of Turkey 's Federation of Developing Sports.
The TCB has a national senior team which also has its sights set on next year's ICC European Division 4 Championship. There are seven domestic teams, four of which are university-based, playing in two main tournaments each year.
All three countries will now receive funding and support from ICC to help them to continue to develop and grow the game.
Commenting on the successful applications, Richard Holdsworth said, 'Cricket in Bulgaria , Estonia and Turkey has developed well over a number of years.
'ICC Affiliate Membership will bring many opportunities for cricket to develop further in these countries. In addition ICC now being recognised as a full member of the International Olympic Committee will hopefully strengthen the culture of the sport in these new member countries.'
New Associate Guernsey's next challenge will be to take on Europe's best at the ICC European U17 Division 1 Championship in Belfast , Northern Ireland. And with the World Cricket League set to expand, the full national side will know that a good performance on home soil in Division 2 will boost their chances of going on to compete at a global level.