NCU move to freshen up competition in the Senior Leagues
Discussions have been taking place within the NCU from as early as the end of last season about how to address a number of issues around the competitiveness of the Senior Leagues and the Premier League in particular.
The current eight team Premier League stemmed from a Development Plan that envisaged a ‘best v best’ ethos, but as International and Interprovincial cricket has become more and more removed from the local league game the cut-throat nature of the Premier League was seen more as a negative than a positive.
Amongst the topics discussed, initially by the team captains and later by a Union Working Group, was the limited ambition of some clubs to play in the Premier League given the see-saw history of promotion and relegation from Section One, with the expansion of the Premier League an obvious way to give some breathing space to promoted sides enabling them to settle in to the highest level of competition.
Also considered were:
The cost implications to clubs of player recruitment and the reduced opportunities for the best young players that stems from that.
The intrusion into the league schedules of International and Inter-Provincial fixtures requiring the imposition of ‘closed dates’.
The current multiple rearrangement rules also came in for criticism with a plea for less rearrangements and a consequent reduction of the current commitment with weekends being wholly devoted to cricket at various times in the season.
One of the talking points round the grounds last season was the possibility of splitting an enlarged Premiership for the second half of the season into two competitive streams and it seems as though something on those lines has found favour in the present discussions.
The benefits offered by such a suggestion would be to ensure that there is continued competition amongst the ‘Top Half’ for the Premiership title and also competition in the ‘Bottom Half’ for the Championship title.
In discussion the option of a 12 team Premiership with a 6/6 split was considered a better option than as a 10 team one with a 5/5 split which would leave one side in each ‘half’ with a blank Saturday.
In such a 12 team scenario all sides would play one round consisting of 11 matches before the split whereafter a further 5 games would take place - a League season of 16 games.
The possibility of extending this format beyond the Premiership was also raised in discussion.
Extending this format to the three sections currently below the Premiership would mean:
A 12 team Section One - playing as above, leaving on current figures an eight team Section 2, who would each have a 14 match league programme.
While consideration was given to the possibility of having 'Open Leagues' the consensus was that there was not support for this option.
In the latest letter to clubs the Union states:
'The intention was to present this paper to clubs prior to the commencement of the season. It was then hoped to have a clubs meeting would debate the proposals and agree in principle to a restructure (or decide to continue as we are) for 2021 which would then be formally ratified at the AGM in October 2020.'
'The Union does still hope to hold such a meeting, but the current circumstances make it impossible to know when that might happen.'
'In the interim the Union would appreciate if clubs could take time to read the attached document and come back through Bryan Milford with feedback on the proposed restructuring plan by Friday 8th May.'