A new Under 18 League launched this season by the North-West has come in for criticism even before it has gotten off the ground.

Seen as a way to prevent drop-outs from the game after finishing at under-16 level, the new league sought to bridge that gap.

However, just five teams have signed up for the initiative by the governing body – Brigade, Bready, Newbuildings and St. Johnston will play in the league, while Bonds Glen are included in the cup.

While the low initial take-up isn’t surprising for the embryonic tournament, the organisers have scored something of an own goal by refusing permission for clubs without sufficient numbers to join forces to kick-start cricket at this age-group.

In a quite bizarre move they have opted to include the flawed and highly controversial points system for the teenagers involved, meaning many will miss out on the opportunity to play cricket against their peers, including some of the region’s most talented youth cricketers.

Ardmore were examining the possibility of joining forces with another club, similar to the amalgamation of Strabane and St Johnston to form the Strabane Saints in the Women’s League. However, this is not allowed in the new league due to the points system.

Unfortunately, the imagination and foresight shown in that instance to women’s cricket to assist in getting teams established hasn’t been evident in the U18 league.

The Bleachgreen side found it disappointing as they were hoping to use the games to further develop players without the massive step up to senior cricket where players often end up lost, and playing little real part in games other than as a fielder.

The decision to stop kids from playing a sport they love with and against their peers is completely unacceptable and against the ethos of all sports. As a governing body to penalise kids due to the clubs they play for is unfathomable and needs to be re-examined.

If the proposed structure stands, it will effectively block kids from playing, including half of the potential NW U17 interprovincial squad, in a tournament that would benefit them considerably.

Kids within the NW U15 squad will also be directly impacted, but they can move clubs unrestricted thus negating any idea of stopping youth players moving clubs.

The subsequent knock-on effect is the potential drop-off in playing numbers from 16-20 and as all available research will indicate, this is a huge issue for all sports. The recent decision by the NWCU assists this drop-off. To block kids from playing in an U18 league due to fears of kids moving clubs is a very restricted view.

This NWCU decision has the potential to decimate local clubs' underage systems and destroy local youth cricket - including the clubs with larger youth sections as they will have higher numbers but less competition due to fewer clubs.

Hopefully the NWCU will come to their senses and change the regulations for what is after all a youth competition that should be spared the red-tape and administrative handcuffs of the points system.