Mar 032012

Humza Naeem batting at Clifton last season. Where will both teams be in 2013?

SCOOP’S VIEW: Well, the CLL will not be the same again after the rule change was passed at the league meeting last night to change from one division of 16 to two divisions of eight from 2013.

The vote went 11/5 in favour of change, which meant the two/thirds majority was achieved.

What it means in essence is that the top eight from the coming season will go into one division, and the bottom eight will go into the second division. Each team in the division will play each other home and away twice, while the Wood Cup will remain the same. The second teams will run the same way, and two will be promoted and relegated each year (I think!)

As far as I am aware, this is on a trial basis until 2014 when it will be re-evaluated. If it is successful, it is anticipated that more clubs could be brought into the league structure in future years.

This is undoubtedly the biggest single change to the CLL in its history, and we at Heywood voted in favour of change. We now know we must play hard to finish in that top eight.

I can’t speak for others, but it was a heavy decision to vote for change because of the damage to 120 years of tradition and the possible downward spiral come clubs could find themselves in.

But we all know the league cannot continue the way it is. As the best-supported club in the league – not in term of membership but proper supporters – we get so little from playing some of the weaker clubs who have had nothing to play for for years. We take quite a few supporters away from home and have good home crowds. We depend on cricket for our survival, unlike most clubs, and we want a level of competition that will continue to draw people down to Crimble.

Despite being the best ground in the league, you can count on one hand the extra people we get in from many clubs and we have to look out for ourselves in this respect.

Allied to all this are the shoddy standards of some grounds. We put in hundreds of hours of unpaid voluntary work to keep Crimble in good nick, but we visit some grounds only to find standards are continually dropping. I think we deserve better and hopefully this will encourage clubs to improve their standards to progress back up the leagues.

It may see some clubs go to the wall. But it may lead to a rethink for some that could see their fortunes improve. I don’t like singling out Ashton and Oldham, but there are competitive leagues on their doorsteps that might bring the good times back to their clubs. Certainly, many players from Oldham play in the Saddleworth League, and maybe a move there may improve Oldham’s chances in the future. Who knows?

It’s certainly not ideal, and I personally would like to see an LCB-affiliated league formed in East Lancashire. Off the top of my head I can think of half a dozen good leagues that could merge and form a new league structure that would increase competition across the area and maybe improve standards. It may lead to more and more clubs spending on amateurs – something I find distasteful as it is a sure way to financial ruin if your backer pulls out – but I don’t blame players looking for what they can get.

Anyway, there it is. That’s my view for what it’s worth.

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