DISAPPOINTMENT WAS a recurring word as Nigel Tench, chairman of the JW Lees Brewery Pennine Cricket League, looked ahead to the start of the 2017 season.
After a hugely successful first campaign for the new league, brought about by the merger of the CLL and Saddleworth League, storm clouds have suddenly gathered.
Five Premiership clubs – Littleborough, Middleton, Norden, Rochdale and Walsden – have all applied to join a revamped Lancashire League.
And in a bid to fill the impending departures, if the Lancashire League creates a second division as expected, the Pennine League has advertised for new clubs.
Mr Tench said: “After what was considered a very good summer by everybody connected with the league, this is disappointing to say the least. And yes, it came as a surprise.
“Had we had a major cock up in he first year, may be I could understand it. Everybody said it was a great season with some fabulous cricket, and then this happens.”
The events will undoubtedly put a dampener on the second season as league officials will need to restructure it for the 2018 season. It had been perceived to be an ideal format with two divisions, each of 12 clubs.
Mr Tench did not want to be drawn on potential new clubs saying the time was not right as applications don’t close until the end of April.
Pennine League officials met with the Lancashire Cricket Board and Lancashire League to discuss the problems.
He said: “There was nothing positive to come from the meeting so far as the Pennine League was concerned which was disappointing.
“Two years ago the LCB prevented the Lancashire League from taking teams from the Northern League when it was looking to expand, but they have done nothing this time.”
Mr Tench and league officials have started to visit small groups of four or five clubs at a time to answer questions and reassure them about the future.
They are anxious more clubs don’t defect with the Greater Manchester League another alternative.
It was the formation of the Greater Manchester League, which started last summer, that caused the massive restructuring of cricket both locally and throughout the county.
Mr Tench added it promises to be another good summer’s cricket with Shaw’s capture of former Lancashire and England bowler Sajid Mahmood, 34, a coup for the prestige of the Pennine League.