Norfolk cricket leagues to merge in pursuit of stronger future

Action from the Norfolk Cricket League last season, Sprowston B bowler Alex Potter and wicket-keeper

Action from the Norfolk Cricket League last season, Sprowston B bowler Alex Potter and wicket-keeper Ian Doy in action against Kirkley & Lowestoft Railway in Division Two. Picture: Lizzy Hampson - Credit: Archant

Change is afoot on the Norfolk cricket landscape, as two of the county's leagues begin finalising plans for a merger.

The Norfolk Cricket League and West Norfolk Cricket League (WNCL) hope the new-look combination will reduce travelling times for players and help to boost participation.

The league will be based on a four-level structure in 2016, with the WNCL to be wound down in August of this year. The new league will then comprise of 78 teams from the Norfolk Cricket League and 23 from the West Norfolk Cricket League, with a meeting of all 101 Clubs planned for September and any rule or constitution changes to be considered at the AGM in November.

The league will be based on a regional basis, with the Norfolk Cricket League already playing the 2015 season on a regionalised basis.

David Browne, vice-chairman of Norfolk Cricket Board said: 'The benefits of the combined league is in line with the advice outlined in the latest national survey from the English Cricket Board, travelling times will be minimised as a result of the regionalisation and more competitive cricket will be played at all of the proposed levels.

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'Flexibility of match starting time, reduction of overs played and the principles indicated by the ECB in their 'Get the Game On' strategy will be very much a part of the new structure.

'Nationally the game of cricket, as well as many other sports is facing a reduction in player participation on an annual basis and the concession of games is on the increase.

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'Norfolk league cricket would appear to be much better off than many other parts of the country but efforts on behalf of all leagues are necessary to retain their clubs and players, particularly in the age group of 16 to 25 years.

'The Norfolk Cricket Board have welcomed the open minded approach from both leagues and the Board totally endorses the changes.'

Over recent years there has been a loss of a number of clubs in the west of Norfolk and the coming together as a single regionalised league raises hopes of securing competitive cricket for clubs countywide for the future.

Mike Ridout, chairman of the Norfolk Cricket League, continued: 'The new look Norfolk Cricket League is an exciting prospect with the addition of the clubs from the west of the county, the league will be a real tour de force for recreational cricket in Norfolk. We look forward to working with all the clubs going forward to provide a sustainable, flourishing league.

'The league will offer something for everyone wishing to play cricket. The chance to play locally, due to the regionalisation, particularly at the lower levels, should be a real springboard to attracting new players of all ages, as well as keeping both the 'older' players and those of a more casual persuasion happy.

'By creating a true pyramid of only four levels under the Norfolk Cricket Alliance, those more ambitious clubs will see huge rewards in terms of playing level and progression over a very short period. It should also provide an easily accessible route into league cricket for new clubs or those wishing to expand.'

The new plans were presented to captains and clubs at a meeting of both the Norfolk League and the West Norfolk League held earlier this month and was well received.

Paul Hooton, chairman of the West Norfolk League, said: 'A dozen or so years ago Richard Green drew up a new structure for league cricket in Norfolk. The changes were not all popular but it did initiate better league relationships. The ECB has reported on a seven per cent loss in people playing cricket this year against the previous year.

'We believe that this merger is a second positive step, which will help stabilise grassroots league cricket being mutually beneficial to Norfolk cricket as a whole. It will give encouragement to all clubs, which we hope will ultimately lead to a regionalised structure under one umbrella for the whole of Norfolk.'

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