NCU show initiative in club consultation
Alistair Bushe (News Letter)
The Northern Cricket Union has invited all clubs in its top two divisions to attend key strategy meetings in Lisburn next week.
NCU chairman Andy Clement and his vice-chairman Alan Waite have invited all 18 chairmen and another representative from each club.
There will be separate meetings for the Premier League and Section One, but the agenda will be wide-ranging and aimed at improving the game at all levels.
Top of the agenda will be discussions on many clubsí increasing reliance on players from outside the NCU region. It is understood that the NCU will pressing home the importance of clubs developing their own talent.
The NCU will look to gauge opinion on the possible introduction of regulation that could limit Irish qualified players in favour of NCU-developed talent.
The full agenda for the meeting is as follows: current developments within the NCU; current competitions and regulations; Improving the standard of NCU club cricket and promotion of local talent; youth cricket; standard of grounds and wickets.
One of the other key talking points of recent seasons has been the switch to an eight-team Premier League and whether it has had the desired impact. The top flight was reduced from 10 to eight teams following the end of the 2011 season and the move has undoubtedly created a more competitive top flight.
However, opinion is divided on whether it has necessarily created any improvement in standards. A debate on social media last Saturday reflected the polarisation of opinions among players and individual clubs.
Neil Russell, the Instonians captain, stressed his strong opposition about a return to a 10-team top flight, while Carl Williams of Lisburn claimed the eight-team structure had been a failure and had contributed to players leaving their own clubs for those at the top end of the table. North Down meanwhile are thought to favour a return to 10 teams with the fall in match-day takings in a 14-game league season thought to be a factor.
The NCU hierarchy may consider the issue of eight or 10 team structures a moot point. Sensibly, they believe the key to cricketís survival and prosperity hinges far more on the development of young talent from within the Union.
The number of matches faced by clubs in the NCUís second tier will also be discussed. Section One remains a 10-team structure and after the creation of the National Cup and Ulster Shield, clubs challenging for honours face a relentless summer of commitment as they also try to accommodate an 18-game season.
Perhaps the most contentious subject of debate will surround the overseas issue.
This summerís selections for the Northern Knights has brought the issue into more public focus. In several matches, the Knights team has contained six players from outside the NCU, something that is understood to have concerned some senior NCU figures.
The NCU, above all, want to hear what clubs think and they have stressed the importance of each club attending. next Wednesday.