Uncertain future of North-East club cricket

First published in Northern Rock ECB North-East Premier League by

The upheaval and uncertainty affecting North-East club cricket looks set to continue.

Last week's meeting of leagues, chaired by the Durham Cricket Board and with representatives of the ECB, League Cricket Conference, and Northumberland CB in attendance, was only able to provide an update on progress towards the formation of a possible second division of the NEPL.

The backdrop to the NEPL's actions was the disquiet about the former pyramid system amongst the member clubs of the Durham Senior League.

Matters came to a head last year and led to the DSL making moves towards forming a second division of their own, after their clubs decided that there would be no DSL relegation 2011 - a decision that effectively sounded the death knell of the pyramid system.

The NEPL reacted swiftly to the breakdown of the promotion route into their league by deciding to test the water themselves, and voted to consider forming a second division of their own in 2013 - a move which was reluctantly accepted as an inevitable consequence of the collapse of the pyramid by the county boards and other leagues.

They advertised in the press, and contacted every club in Durham, inviting expressions of interest in joining a NEPL 2.

Fifteen clubs logged their interest - one from the NTSL, three each from the Durham Coast and County Leagues and eight from the Senior League.

The NEPL executive met with those clubs on January 17.

NEPL chairman Keith Robson said: "The evening went very well, the feeling in the room was very positive. Now the club officials will go back to their own committees to discuss what was said, and we will meet again in early February when we hope to begin the formal application process.''

The subsequent meeting of all leagues and officials took place two nights later, with the NEPL bringing everyone up to date on the suggested playing conditions, promotion and relegation issues, and criteria for membership.

However, of primary concern to the other leagues was the number of clubs likely to be interested in joining, with the NEPL representatives indicating that the maximum number in the division would be 12, and the minimum number required to get it off the ground eight.

Of the 15 clubs expressing their interest, it is understood that four contacted their respective leagues within 24 hours of the NEPL presentation suggesting they would not be proceeding with a formal application.

The next meeting of the NEPL with the remaining 11 clubs is scheduled for Thursday, February 2 with forms issued to those wishing to extend their interest into a formal application.

All applicant clubs would then need to be evaluated to assess whether they met the required NEPL criteria - primarily minimum ground and facilities standards.

This caused some concern amongst the other leagues regarding to the time it would take, and, with this in mind, the DCB were insistent that the NEPL must conclude the whole process by mid-March.

In the interim, the 2012 campaign is likely to be something of a watershed in the current landscape of league cricket in the region, with the only change from last summer being Marsden's return to the DSL from the County League.

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