Norfolk Alliance in promotion U-turn

CRICKET: The Norfolk Alliance have performed a dramatic U-turn over their decision to deny promotion to clubs who finished second in their division last season. Only Mattishall A will miss out.

After Fakenham were relegated from the East Anglian Premier League to the Alliance Premier Division in September, and Downham declined the chance to move up to the EAPL, the Alliance announced that teams who had finished second would have promotion rescinded in order to maintain 10 teams in each division next year.

Division Six winners Swardeston-CEYMS were also told that they would not be promoted, in order to accommodate Norfolk League winners Winterton in Division Five.

The decision sparked a storm of protest and the Alliance have now agreed to an 11-team Premier Division, meaning all runners-up – apart from Mattishall A in Division Six – can now be promoted.

Alliance chairman John Tythcott said: 'Such was the fall-out from our original decision that we had to re-think.

'Members of the management committee, led by the fixture secretary Patrick Dewing, came up with a resolution of 11 teams in the Premier Division and although it has been difficult we have managed to square it up.'

The change of heart means that runners-up Stow (Division One), Saxlingham (Division Two), Horsford A (Division Three), Sprowston A (Division Four) and Hethersett & Tas Valley A (Division Five) will now step up a division, along with Swardeston-CEYMS.

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Mundford A will still be relegated from Division Six to the West Norfolk League, although the revamp has meant a reprieve for Thetford A, who would also have dropped out of the Alliance under the original proposal.

Tythcott denied that the Alliance had simply bowed to pressure from clubs affected by the decision, but added: 'The one thing I would say is that with six teams from Norfolk in the EAPL, there was a fair chance that one of them was going to get relegated and there was no real contingency plan in place for that.

'That is something we have definitely resolved now. We were put on the back foot slightly, but we have come up with something that is workable thanks to a lot of effort from the people involved.'

The Alliance will decide at their meeting in January whether to retain the 11-team Premier Division for future seasons or to relegate an extra team in each division next year in order to return to 10 teams in each section.

The Alliance Premier Division season will now start a week earlier than the other divisions – on April 23 – and will continue for three weekends after the rest of the league have completed their season, finishing on September 17.

The uneven number of teams means some Premier Division clubs will have blank weekends during the season – although that does leave scope for a 12th team to be introduced, should another Norfolk side slip out of the EAPL.