Huddersfield cricket is heading for crisis point.
A split among clubs in the Solly Sports Central League has brought a state of flux about where they will play next season.
And now both the Drakes League and Spenser Wilson Halifax League – who had originally drawn up plans to cater for all the Central clubs – are reviewing how best to proceed.
It’s likely a Special General meeting of the Drakes clubs will be called in October to discuss the issue, while the Halifax League are carrying out ground inspections at three Central Clubs – Mount, Leymoor and Birchencliffe – who have applied independently to play in Calderdale.
Five Central clubs – Cartworth Moor, Almondburians, Edgerton & Dalton, Holmbridge and Nortonthorpe – have asked to join the Drakes League and it’s understood they have been joined by a sixth, Flockton.
Two other Central Clubs, Higham and Green Moor, have already been accepted into the South Yorkshire League for 2017.
The future of the Central League clubs, however, is now back in the melting pot.
Drakes chairman Trevor Atkinson has made it clear his organisation believe it would be best for Central clubs to remain together under a Drakes umbrella, playing as associate members in their own sections and with an eventual pathway to progress.
The existing 38 Drakes clubs would have the final say on whether that was accepted or not.
“We feel we have a duty to protect, wherever we can, grassroots cricket in Huddersfield,” said Mr Atkinson.
“It’s a matter of helping the Central clubs play cricket, otherwise they may just wind up, and we would lend our management expertise to them going forward.
“I was expecting to announce a Special General Meeting about whether the five clubs who had asked were invited to join the Drakes, but everything is now back in the melting pot.
“Our intention, if accepted, was to put those clubs into the second XI competitions, with first teams in the Jedi Sports Championship Two and second teams in the Cedar Court Conference Two.
“It would have been suggested as a two-year probation period and they wouldn’t have had full voting rights in the league, but they would have been continuing to play cricket with an opportunity for them to progress.
“That is all now on ice until we can provide clubs with all the facts about what is happening.”
A two-thirds majority is needed in the Drakes League for any decision to be passed.
Ultimately, also, the Yorkshire Cricket Board could dictate where the Central clubs play.
The YCB are duty bound to protect their clubs, and they wouldn’t see any club go under for lack of a league to play in, so they could force the issue if it’s not sorted out.
This all comes on the back of further concerns about the future of some Drakes clubs and the composition of the league in the coming years.
Three Premiership clubs – Golcar, Barkisland and Elland (who have been relegated this summer) – have put in a potential rule amendment to reduced the top flight to 12 from a current 14 clubs in 2018.
That means 11 of the top division haven’t put forward such an amendment, as it would mean three being relegated and only one promoted from the Jedi Sports Championship next summer, but it will go to a vote at the annual meeting in December.
There seems to be a rapidly diminishing appetite for Sunday cricket among second XIs, while there appears to be a split on whether to reduce the length of second-team matches.
Some believe it’s essential to play fewer overs to maintain interest, particularly among youngsters from the T20 era, while the other school feel it’s better to have longer matches to give young players chance to develop.
A number of clubs are already experiencing difficulty putting out first and second teams and, while Drakes rules say clubs have to have two teams, that could come under review quite soon.
There is also an ongoing shortage of umpires, one which the Umpires Association are keen to address.
They say the answer comes from within the clubs, where many members and former players could get involved and would receive every help along the way (courses for people to get the basic umpiring qualification are run every year).
The Halifax League, who have put in a lot of time and effort to find ways of accommodating the Central League en masse, are just as keen for a solution to be found, so proper plans for the 2017 season can be put in place.