First of all, the Board of Control at NWCU deserve credit. No longer can they be accused of standing idly aside while our sport rapidly goes by the wayside. Indeed, they got a coherent cricket programme for us to play in in 2020 against all odds – fair play.
However, I will not be supporting the proposed changes to the structure of the game.
In 2019, pre-Covid, changes were voted on and approved at the AGM. Coloured clothes and earlier start times. Covid arrived and these changes never had a chance. In any line of business, the importance of testing and iteration is key. Make a change and test the response.
If we make seven simultaneous changes, we will have no idea what has worked or what hasn’t. What happens if there is little or no change? Then we are rapidly running out of options. We will have fired our bullets so to speak.
I get the need for rapid and proactive change, but let’s give coloured clothes and earlier starts a chance first. If it doesn’t work, then we should look at other more widescale options.
If it works a little, then we retain those things and add in something else too. 40 overs has been suggested as a cure for Senior Cricket.
First of all, discounting 2020 for obvious reasons, I just do not see any participation issue in Premiership cricket. Strong teams are being fielded every week – maybe not the same as the golden eras of yore, but still pretty good.
I’m against this for three reasons; It leaves us out of kilter with the rest of the provinces and diminishes our pathway through to Warriors or International cricket. What happens in three years if people decide they don’t fancy 40 overs? Down to 30 then? Then we’re a pub league.
All the history and relativity of our sport is gone, not possible to compare a Raymond Curry with a Mark Gillespie, as they will be playing different sports. How many Senior matches last 100 overs? Or even 95? Not many would be my guess.
I think you would be changing the fabric of our sport to save half an hour, in reality. Those are my primary motivations for opposing the changes. I think that fundamentally, our senior structures are not broke and do not require fixing.
Messing around with no promotion or relegation, increased T20s and no replays will only start to destroy the storied history of NWCU. Attend a Donemana v Brigade match, at The Holm, and you will not see many issues around participation or interest.
Where the issue lies, and there is definitely an issue, is participation in intermediate cricket. Before we reinvent the wheel, I have an easy fix to try: Pay the Umpires More
Find the money to do it. It will lift intermediate cricket from a knockabout in a park to being a game of real meaning. At the very least, there should be two umpires for all Q1 matches. I have heard the stat that NWCU pays the umpires most relative to the other Unions.
Fair enough, but supply and demand economics suggest that that still is not enough – and comparing Dublin and Derry is apples and oranges. Given the different socioeconomic profile in Dublin, it is fair to assume that remuneration is irrelevant for a lot of Umpires – whereas, in Derry, an extra tenner per match would go a long way to incentivising people to give up their Saturdays.
I also think that a lack of income is the more fundamental issue in our dwindling sport. I read last week that NWCU brought in £30k of grant funding last year and it went almost exclusively to buying Bready a new mower.
Comparing that figure with £250k to NCU is pretty harrowing, especially combined with the almost total absence of sponsorship income or revenues.
Finally, I think there is at least some merit in the proposals.
I like the Player Points System and could live with the changes to the Qualifying Leagues.
The new league structure might help struggling Championship clubs and the focus on youth and ladies cricket is also admirable.
So it's not all doom and gloom - just fix the bits that are broken and when rebuilding, start with the foundations, not the roof.