AN EXODUS of three further clubs meant the death knell for the Pennine Cricket League.
The decisions by Saddleworth, Crompton and Milnrow to depart left the league with only eight clubs from the 24 that are competing this summer.
And after a meeting the steering group formed by the eight remainers and the Greater Manchester Cricket League, it was accepted by all present at Emirates Old Trafford that a minimum of 12 clubs would be required to form a viable league.
It was decided that the best course of action would be for the eight clubs – Ashton, Austerlands, Friarmere, Hollinwood, Micklehurst, Oldham, Stayley and Uppermill – to apply en-bloc to join the Greater Manchester Cricket League.
But in highly productive discussions, the Greater Manchester Cricket League was acutely aware of the history and tradition of league cricket in the area.
And they would be happy to allocate dates for the Wood, Tanner, Burton and Moore cup competitions to continue.
Pennine League chairman Nigel Tench, a major driving force in the merger of the CLL and Saddleworth League, is resigned to the league folding after only two seasons.
He said: “I am disappointed by what has happened, not only from a personal point of view but also for a lot of other people who put in a lot of work to set up the league.
“There has been no problem on the field with the cricket, it’s just the fun and games off it.
“A lot of avenues are being explored, but I am reasonably certain the cup competitions will survive, especially the Wood and Tanner.”
Austerlands were one of the remainers and captain Andy Young, a key player of the steering committee that met with the Greater Manchester Cricket League, said: “We did not have the numbers for a sustainable league – there were only eight and a couple of undecided.
“I have spoken to clubs and the majority are happy to join the Greater Manchester Cricket League.
“That league is restructuring and the good news is that we will have a voice on that committee and a say where our clubs are placed.
“It is good that the Greater Manchester Cricket League is listening to us and very much want our impute.
“And they are keen to keep tradition of two great leagues alive by allowing clubs to still compete for the Wood and Tanner Cups.”
Andy added JW Lees Brewery have expressed a willingness to continue to sponsor the cup competitions.
It is thought a new regionalised division may be set up so the major of the clubs could still find themselves competing against one another.
Andy continued: “I am hoping clubs will embrace the move and go forward with excitement.
“You can make the best of what has been dealt to you or whinge, but at least we have a voice on the Greater Manchester Cricket League and I can see no negatives.”
A statement issued by the Greater Manchester Cricket League added: “It quickly became apparent that playing levels among the Pennine Cricket League clubs varied significantly and contrary to the popular misconception that most of the clubs involved were in decline, all of them are working hard to improve on and off the pitch, albeit at very different stages of development.
“While on the one hand it would be attractive to stay together, to do so in any format would severely limit any development opportunities amongst the Pennine Cricket League clubs or to benefit from the ethos of the Greater Manchester Cricket League which ensures that all clubs play at a competitive level for the whole season through a promotion and relegation system.
“Discussions turned to how to maintain the original objectives of the Pennine Cricket League and the positive outcome was to explore the use of the existing Wood/Tanner/Burton/Moore Cup competitions to keep alive the traditional fixtures in future seasons.
“The executive committee of the Pennine Cricket League is delighted that the long history and tradition of these prestigious competitions will be preserved.”
Austerlands chairman Phil Young attended the meeting at Old Trafford and was reassured by what he heard.
He said: “We had concerns about travel, but were assured only the first two divisions were rigid and everybody else will be regionalised.
“It is also good news that it looks as though we will be able to maintain our heritage as the new league had no problem with our clubs still competing for the Wood and Tanner cups so we can keep local rivalries.”
MEANWHILE, it is a huge day of cricket on Sunday, July 9 as the semi finals take place in all four of the Pennine League’s cup competitions.
And there is plenty of local interest with Friarmere, Greenfield and Saddleworth involved.
- Wood Cup: Crompton v Littleborough; Royton v Rochdale
- Tanner Cup: Norden v Stayley; Friarmere v Heyside
- Burton Cup: Middleton v Greenfield; Glodwick v Norden
- Moore Cup: Oldham v Saddleworth; Heyside v Littleborough