NACO Cup organisers look for a fresh approach

The organisers of a Norfolk cup competition are bidding to 'freshen up' Sunday cricket in the county.

The NDI Insurance NACO Cup will be relaunched next year in a new format, with East Anglian Premier League clubs and overseas players excluded from competing.

It is hoped that by creating a more even level of competition clubs will not withdraw from games and there will be fewer mismatches in terms of team strength.

NACO competition secretary Barry Toombs said the changes have been made following teams failing to fulfil fixtures in recent years not only in the NACO Cup but in other Sunday competitions as well: 'I think we need to breath a bit of fresh air into Sunday cricket in the county,' he said. 'It is quite a radical change and we might not get it right straight away, it might take a couple of years, but by then hopefully we will have a finished product we can stick with.

'The difference between the Alliance Premier Division and the EAPL is vast, there is a huge gap, so we have tried to even it up.'

The NACO committee also took into account the fact that next year, the four EAPL sides - Swardeston, Great Witchingham, Horsford and reigning NACO champions Vauxhall Mallards – will have an additional Sunday commitment as they will be required to play in the ECB's national cup competition.

The two NACO competitions will remain in a 50-over format, with the Cup contested between sides from the top three divisions of the Norfolk Alliance. Any side who has played in the EAPL in the past three years will also be excluded, meaning Fakenham and Norwich will not currently be eligible.

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The Shield competition will be for sides from Alliance Divisions Three, Four and Five, along with selected teams from the West Norfolk and Norfolk Leagues.

It is hoped that the revised format will eventually generate enough interest for 16 teams to take part in both the Cup and Shield competitions.

Sponsors NDI Insurance are providing prize money of �300 for the winners of both competitions, with the Cup runners-up receiving �200 and the Shield runners-up getting �100.

Umpire Andy Gardiner, who is also national sales manager for NDI, said: 'If we have 16 teams in each competition it is only a commitment of four Sundays in a season - and that is only if you get to the final. There is prize money, we want to make the finals day a really good event and every side who enters should have a genuine chance of winning. I really hope clubs will be energised into entering.

'Although the EAPL sides have fully supported us in the past I think it was becoming a bit of a chore for them and it was best to freshen it up.'

The NACO Cup will be in its fourth season next year, having filled the void left by the Biss Trophy, which finished in 2008.

The committee plan to send out invitations to potential participating clubs shortly.