Craven Cricket is why we are all attending our AGM. Some are here to avoid a fine, but the majority really care about our league. When we talk about Craven Cricket it means different things to different people.
There are players who have had their entire cricket careers with us and some of those players are maybe considering whether they should play next year. There are juniors just starting out playing our wonderful game, they may stay with us, or they could go on to play in a higher cricket league. We wish them well and believe they will return to us when their bodies won’t allow them to play cricket at that higher standard. Then we have players who fill in when their wife’s let them play out. Players, who are dedicated to the league, play every Saturday and can’t wait for the next season to start. We can’t forget the umpires, scorers, groundsmen, tea ladies, club secretaries, club treasurers, committee people, supporters, which together we all proudly call ourselves Craven Cricket.
Our league can trace its history back to 1888. We can proudly say we have evolved and are completely unrecognisable to our founders. Would they ever have thought some 128 years later, so many people would feel so passionately about our league? I know we hear many tales about how cricket is becoming a dying sport and I’m not naïve, I know clubs are often struggling to find players. But we have twenty seven games of cricket taking place on a Saturday afternoon for twenty two weeks of the year, surely that’s something to celebrate.
Recently your Executive Committee have been asking clubs what their development plans are. The answers have been amazing and it’s incredible that so much is happening behind the scenes. If we hadn’t asked the clubs what they were doing, all this action would probably have happened and gone unnoticed. I know there are some clubs who will be happy if they still have a club at the end of next year. Looking at Haworth WE, we didn’t want to see them leave us, but I’m forever the optimist and hopefully we haven’t lost them, their field is still being used as a cricket ground and you never know they could come back. However the majority of the clubs have plans, brilliant plans in some cases. One club is looking to buy their own field, others want grounds equipment, some want to build and improve their facilities and most importantly we have some clubs who want to start a junior section. All of these clubs need support, not just from the Executive Committee, the YCB, the ECB, their club members and supporters, but most importantly from their fellow clubs. I know I say it every year, but we can only play cricket if we have opposition to play against.
The Boxing Day floods were horrendous, no other word for them. Our league was devastated; five clubs were badly affected, they could so easily of gone down the pan with the flood waters. Haworth Road it’s fair to say were the worst affected, we made light hearted comments about the storage crate being painted white and using it as a sight screen. That’s the Yorkshire way to try and find humour in everything, even if it’s devastating. Then nobody knew what was going to happen to the two cars which were parked on the playing area, or indeed who they belonged to. Would the ground be revived after all the water had gone and all the rubbish it had left behind had been removed. Was it safe to play cricket, would the square survive, would the outfield ever dry out.
It wasn’t just Haworth Road, there was Riddlesden, Airedale, Bradford & Bingley and Bingley Congs, all of these clubs were in a real mess. The YCB were quick to help and within hours of the floods taking place they had contact details on their website and emails were flying everywhere. Our clubs were encouraged to answer these emails even though they didn’t fully know how much damage there was at that time. They were encouraged, badgered, nagged, okay I phoned all of them and made sure they did what they had to do, which was to email the YCB and tell them they had been flooded. The response from the YCB and ECB was fantastic – no other words for it, they were fantastic. All five clubs were looked after financially and were given valuable advice on how to get their fields playable. At the start of season 2016, all the clubs were ready to play cricket and how can we as a league ever thank the YCB and ECB enough.
Now what happened in season 2016. Firstly your Executive decided to move the first match of the season, the weather was terrible leading up to the start of the season and the grounds were wet. I think we were the first league in the area to make this momentous decision and the other leagues followed us. One local league contacted me for advice on this subject, before they also moved their fixture; that has never happened before. Anyway I digress.
In division one Crossflatts and Bingley Congs battled it out to the bitter end, with Crossflatts eventually becoming the champions. Although Bingley Congs came second, it has to be said, as a club they had a brilliant season. Their first team won the Wynn Cup, their second team were finalists in the Cowling cup and their third team completed their first season. I’m sure their selection committee at times wondered why on earth they had ever decided to put a third team into the league. It seriously must have meant loads of extra work, but I’m sure it was all worthwhile and their club can only be strengthened by their third team.
Hepworth & Idle were the winners of division two. I fully expected them to be promoted to that division when they joined the league and congratulations to them because it hasn’t taken them long to get there. As I say to all new arrivals into division one; good luck next year and I really hope you enjoy the cricket in the top division. Going up with them is Barrowford. Jonny Ormerod told me last season that his club would bounce back and get promotion this season and I’m pleased for him that both teams have been promoted. Their second team are going back to division three.
The winners of Division three are Long Lee, well done boys. At the dinner Trevor said Uncle Derek would have been so proud you have been promoted. Yet I believe he would have said you should never have been demoted last year. Promoted with Long Lee is Sandy Lane. Now that club really has worked hard this season. They had several players jump ship in 2015 and some club officials resigned at the end of that season. The lads who were left at the club had to learn quickly how to run a cricket club and they managed that extremely well. Their second team won the new Division Four. Then their club won the most prestigious award, The Margaret Coe Trophy for the club of the year; a well-deserved award in my opinion.
Would Division Four and its new format work and be a success was one of the questions at the end of last season. In my opinion it did. I know it’s not ideal and I had plenty of phone calls asking me questions about how the process worked and how bonus points were awarded. Some clubs cheekily gave themselves bonus points on Play Cricket when they were not entitled to them and this antagonised other teams involved. However it all worked out reasonably and Skipton CI seconds were the winners of the B section. They will be promoted to and A section next year along with Cowling seconds.
Which just leaves the cup competitions; as I mentioned earlier Bingley Congs won the Wynn Cup, defeating Sutton in the final. The Cowling cup winners were Denholme seconds. In the Cowling Cup the Executive had decided to try a T20 competition, the jury is still out on whether this was the right thing to do. The first proposed rule alteration is a straight majority vote on stay as T20 or go back to 40 overs. No doubt we will learn later tonight what the clubs have decided.
At this AGM the voting system has changed, The Executive has asked clubs to complete a ballot paper and return it tonight. Our aim is to stop the Mexican Wave going round the room, as some clubs have no idea what they are voting for, but put their hands up because it appears a popular vote. Only time will tell if this system has been successful, because I fully expect some clubs to arrive without their paperwork.
The Manorlands Plate was hosted by Oakworth again this year. Wonderful event, brilliant day out, Oakworth really looked after everyone and the final total for the Hospice was £2521.22, what an achievement. My opinion is we have found the right format in the T20 competition. If I had one thing to criticise, it was the lack of support from some clubs. These clubs didn’t donate anything to the fund and nobody from their club managed to attend the event. I know it’s all optional, but I would love to see all clubs get involved. Oh and I nearly forgot to mention the winners of the Plate were Ingrow St John’s.
Our final match of the season is The Nidderdale Show. What a cracking performance from Toby Priestly and the Craven League team. The lads who represent the league as usual were brilliant and I would just like to thank them again for giving up their time for us. I feel I have to share this with you. When me and Trevor arrived at the show ground and Trevor saw the Nidderdale team, his words of wisdom were – they have a strong team and we will be lucky to win this year. Craven 376-6 and Nidderdale 160, maybe he got that wrong.
Season 2016 saw the launch of the Pyramid system for Yorkshire cricket. Because I attend many a meeting with the YCB representing firstly our league then secondly The North Yorkshire Area Council, I have listened to what the YCB and the County Club are trying to achieve. For the last couple of years this item has been on all the agendas, at all the meetings and rightly so because it has been shaping the future of Yorkshire cricket, which involves us all. Geographically I don’t believe we can easily fit into the structure. Whilst I’m not too worried about that fact, what I am worried about is the way the YCB are focusing all their attention on the Pyramid. Again it is only my opinion and it’s probably because the Craven League is my top priority, but when every committee has to have the majority of members from the Pyramid on it, you have to ask the question what about us!
The affiliation fees for the YCB and ultimately to affiliate to the ECB, costs the same for all clubs. In simple terms we pay the same amount as all the other clubs in Yorkshire, even those who are starting out on their journey to the brave new world in the pyramid. Yet our voice that of proper grass roots cricket is not being listened to. It is a difficult decision as to whether I should continue to attend YCB meetings or not. At the last North Yorkshire Area Council meeting or as it will be known in future The North Yorkshire Leagues Council, I voiced my concerns. As most of you will know Trevor voiced his thought to Bill Marshall and they ended up in the papers. Next Monday night I will be attending The YCB Members Board meeting and I really wonder if this is the right thing to do? Should I continue to explain to the YCB Directors that The Craven League and all those who leagues who can’t or won’t join the Pyramid are important? I would appreciate some input from the member clubs and if you have any thoughts, then please feel free to contact me later.
One achievement this year that I’m particularly delighted with is, the fact I have managed to get our Treasurer to relax his tight grip on our funds. No seriously The Executive has voted in favour of using some of the leagues monies to support clubs. Next year, and for one year only, the league will pay the YCB affiliation fees. That’s £45 per club and £15 per team. The League will also pay the Groundsman’s Association, which is £8 per club.
In closing tonight I would like to congratulate Chris Todd our new Chairman on the completion of his first year in office. I think it all went relatively smoothly. I thank on your behalf all the members of the Executive Committee for all their hard work, running the league for the member clubs. If the clubs vote in favour of increasing the number of Executive members, then I would like to welcome Tony Boreham and Ron Wanless to your Executive.
I think that’s all I have to say for this year!