New regional competition proposed by KNCB
The KNCB has circulated to the Hoofdklasse and Eerste Klasse clubs the Board’s proposals for restructuring of domestic cricket, which will be discussed at the annual consultative meeting on 4 February.
After months of soul-searching and at times acrimonious debate, the Board appears to have struck a balance between the desire of Top Cricket Nederland for radical change and the scepticism of many clubs towards the most far-reaching of TCN’s ideas.
The new proposals therefore do not include an element of two-day cricket at club level, but instead go for the alternative model of a three-team regional competition, with a single round of matches, each to be played on two consecutive Saturdays. The three matches would take place between June and September, and the teams would represent Amsterdam/Utrecht, Den Haag, and Rotterdam.
This proposal appears to omit the Haarlem/Bloemendaal area, and this is perhaps one of the issues which will need to be addressed when the proposal is considered on 4 February.
The Board clearly recognises that this new competition would need to be given all the weight required to ensure that it was taken seriously: a coach would be appointed for each region, no paid professionals would be eligible, and players in national squads would be made aware that declining to play would have consequences for their representative careers.
The TCN leadership’s principal argument against such a competition has been that it would not be properly supported by clubs and players, and if the current proposal is adopted it would be up to all concerned to make sure that it became a crucial part of the season’s programme.
It is also suggested that a second regional competition should be introduced at under-18 level, and played in August; this would go some way towards meeting the complaint that junior players get far too little cricket at present.
Another key element in the plan is the much-anticipated reduction of the Hoofdklasse, and indeed all other TCN divisions, to a maximum of eight teams from 2010, with the present two sections of the Overgangsklasse being reduced to one.
The proposal is that the bottom two clubs in the 2009 Hoofdklasse competition would be relegated, with the eighth-placed club playing off against the winners of the Eerste Klasse for the right to join the other seven in the 2010 campaign.
According to the KNCB proposals, the structure of the play-offs for the national title would be unaltered for 2009, but further consideration will be given to introducing a more extended play-off season from 2010 (when there would, of course, be four fewer rounds in the round-robin phase).
Other changes proposed include new Twenty20 competitions for the lower divisions, under-18 and under-15 juniors, and the women’s sides; reductions in the number of overs played to 45 for the Overgangsklasse and 40 for lower divisions; the introduction of a Sunday social (Zomi) competition involving 30-over games; and a much more extended programme of youth cricket.
The idea of a Club Charter also makes a welcome return to the agenda, with a proposal that this should be made mandatory, at least for Hoofdklasse clubs. It is suggested that 2009 should be devoted to the development of this system and approval of clubs’ proposals, with the system starting definitively in 2010.
The areas to be covered would include the number of youth and women’s teams which the club fielded, the provision of qualified umpires, availability of satisfactory facilities, and similar factors.
Much work has gone into this restructuring process over the past four months, and if the Board’s proposals receive the clubs’ approval there will clearly need to be a good deal more in order to ensure that everything is in place by the beginning of May.
But the effect of these changes would clearly be substantial, and they seem likely to make a significant contribution to that concentration of talent and experience which is required if The Netherlands is to continue to compete at the highest level.