A potentially damaging umpiring split could be on the horizon in Leinster after a dramatic week in the region.
The background to the drama started last November when the Leinster Scorers and Umpires Association (LCUSA) voted to reject an amalgamation proposal with Cricket Leinster.
However, Cricket Leinster responded to the snub this week with the establishment of their own committee - the Cricket Leinster Umpires and Scorers Committee (CLUSC).
In an email Philip Smith, General Manager of Cricket Leinster informed the officials:
"I am pleased to advise that Cricket Leinster has decided to establish a specific committee dedicated to supporting our Umpires & Scorers and to growing the number of participants over the coming years. This new Committee (which will have the acronym 'CLUSC') will report into the CL Cricket Committee to ensure that we adopt a strategic approach to all matters related to umpiring and scoring.
"In that regard, the first members of the CLUSC have been appointed by the CL Cricket Committee and will be as follows: Kevin Gallagher (Chair & Grading) Steve Wood (Honorary Secretary) Joe Connolly (LCU&SA President) Siobhan McBennett (Scorers) Matt Anson (Appointments) Bala Kailash (Training) William Clarke (Registration) Aidan Seaver (Garda Vetting)
"All umpires and scorers who wish to participate for the 2020 season should now register on the CL website - this will provide you with full insurance cover (both Liability & Personal Accident) and will also enable the Committee to appoint you to matches in due course (when the season commences). This registration process is free-of-charge and any fees paid to-date by anyone who has already registered will be fully refunded.
"We have made this decision to encourage more people to take up both umpiring and scoring and also to recognise the critical role which umpires & scorers make to the operation of club cricket."
The email came as a bombshell to the LCU&SA who issued a strongly worked statement on Friday afternoon.
"The announcement by Cricket Leinster of a new umpires’ and scorers’ committee has come as a complete shock to the Executive.
"It is a clear rejection of the democratic vote by our members at the AGM and a clear breach of Cricket Leinster’s promise that relations between the two organisations would remain unchanged.
"The inclusion of Joe Connolly and Matt Anson amongst its members does not imply that either Joe or Matt endorses the new committee. They were as surprised by the public announcement as everyone else.
"Over the next few days, we are seeking to speak to the wider Leinster Cricket community and to engage with our members to determine an appropriate response. We would hope to hold a general meeting of members as soon as lockdown rules allow.
"In the meantime, we would suggest that you do not engage with the new committee and that you do not register with them. The LCU&SA Executive remain the only democratically elected representatives of umpires and scorers."
In response, Paul Reynolds, Chair of the Cricket Leinster Cricket Committee moved to allay their concerns and emailed the membership outlining the benefits that the new committee would have.
"I just want to follow up on Philip’s e-mail from Wednesday last to all umpires and scorers. At the request of the Cricket Leinster Board, the CL Cricket Committee formed a sub-committee to fill a void that meant that no one within Cricket Leinster was responsible for all those that operate around cricket matches in an officiating capacity, whether it be umpires, scorers, assessors ,referees or player umpires.
"That sub-committee has now been set up and will fit into Cricket Leinster's structure alongside other sub-committees such as the Women's Committee, the Open Competitions Committee and the Grounds Committee.
"I'd like to thank all those who have kindly agreed to serve on the new CLUS sub-committee – without exception, the new committee includes people of great stature in the umpiring & scoring community who have vast knowledge, credibility and bona fides.
"Cricket Leinster relies on the many volunteers that supplement the extensive work that the Cricket Leinster staff carry out. As an umpire myself, I am delighted that umpires and scorers have now got a place within Cricket Leinster's decision making structure.
"We have exciting plans to grow and develop our umpiring & scoring over the next couple of years. Thanks also to all those people who have already registered to umpire or score for 2020 – even though it will be an abbreviated season, we are very excited about the prospect of a return to play and will work tirelessly to ensure that we operate a safe environment for everyone who is involved in the sport.
"This new development will undoubtedly cause angst for some people, change always creates some level of anxiety however I can assure you that, as an umpire or scorer, you should only view this as a positive move – you will be fully insured at no cost to you, you will be fully registered at no cost to you, you will be paid directly at a frequency of your choosing and you will even receive a full €50 expense fee for any match irrespective of duration (and bear in mind that there is likely to be quite a lot of T20 cricket!).
"Thanks again for all you do for Cricket in Leinster and please help us to enrol more umpires and scorers to enhance our club game even further."