In a communication with CricketEurope, the KNCB has explained the reasoning behind the return to a ten-team Topklasse format, a decision which was met with some criticism. The rationale is set out below:
Why are we going back to a ten team Topklasse?
The prnciple reason the competition is going back to ten teams is to create more rest for the Dutch cricketing society. More teams means a lower percentage of relegation, creating more opportunities for youth players, political rest and financial rest:
Create more opportunity for youth
The main reason cricket is going back to ten teams is to create more opportunities for youth players. Relegation/promotion was always on the line during previous years. This meant youth players werenít always awarded with opportunities to play and make mistakes. With more teams in the higher divisions the chance of relegation is lower and therefore clubs give more attention towards youth players and their development.
The fewer teams that play in the highest leagues the bigger the chances are for relegation. This is of course subject to sport, but in Dutch sporting society relegation means more than just going down one league. As sportsgrounds in The Netherlands are getting scarcer by the day, great pressure is put on clubs to continue playing at on the highest level. As winter sports continue to expand their seasons deeper into the traditional cricket season, going down a league didnít only mean refocus for the team, but also a loss of bargaining power with regard to other sports. Previously there was a great deal of pressure on for clubs to invest in players that could ensure their survival in higher divisions. With more teams in the top leagues and a lower chance of relegation we hope some rest will return to clubs and youth players at clubs will be afforded more chances to play as well as improving their bargaining position vis-a-vis winter sports.
As the economy went into a financial crisis the economics of sport changed as well. Clubs found it harder to find sponsors and revenue. With clubs now having to spend less to maintain their position in the higher leagues theys can stabilize their finances and devote more resources to youth development.
One of the reasons Topklasse was created and we went from 10 teams to 8 teams was to shrink the gap between the national team and the domestic competition. Dutch youth players struggled to play in high-intensity matches and were finding it difficult to adjust to the standards of the national team. The idea was that with fewer teams and more high-intensity games this gap would become smaller.
However, in recent years new opportunities have been created in this gap between club cricket and the national team. The North Sea Pro-Series, an EPP program and a further expansion of the National A-team program is a platform for Dutch youth players to experience more high-standard, high-intensity cricket.
With this intermediary step between the national team and the club competition, more space can be afforded in the national competition for young players learn to build innings and to excel.