FORMER TEST umpire John Holder, president of the JW Lees Brewery Pennine Cricket League, favours cricket following football and rugby with the introduction of red cards for misbehaviour on the field of play.
Holder believes the drastic measure, that looks set to be implemented by the MCC later this year, is needed to penalise offenders who abuse officials and opposing players.
He explained: “There is a tide of bad behaviour and it is getting worse as we saw in our league last summer.
“I am in favour of anything that tries to turn this horrible plague of bad behaviour.”
The Pennine League’s disciplinary committee has to deal with 22 incidents, 13 of which were for dissent, either against umpires or opponents.
Holder added that was disappointing, especially as before the start of the season there were three meetings with team captains and club officials to spell out discipline and conduct and punishments for breaches.
He believes a red card system with immediate punishments favourable to punishments simply being implemented at a later date.
Apparently cricket is one of only two team sports to have no mechanism for sending off a player.
“If a player knows they would be sent off for the remainder of the match, it may make them think twice as it will affect the team immediately if they are to lose a key bowler or best batsman,” he said.
Holder believes the Pennine League took decisive action handing out suspensions rather than suspended bans.
But he was critical of some clubs for only paying “lip service” to the disciplinary guidelines that say they ought to take action.
It was because of clubs’ failure to deal with issues that forced the league to call players to account at disciplinary meetings.
Holder added if action is not taken he can see more umpires quitting the game.
He continued: “We are desperately short of umpires in our league as is the case with most others. If the situation doesn’t improve, I can see the day when players have to officiate games themselves.
“Umpires are the custodians of the game. They don’t need that hassle, all for £45.”
Holder, who retired in 2009 after 27 years as a first-class umpire, officiated in 11 Tests and 19 one-day internationals.
Though Holder says he was only a victim of abuse three times in his long career, he was aware of problems.
He explained: “About 12 years ago I was serving on the MCC’s Laws Working Party and one of our members, Stan Bennett from Cheltenham, first alerted me to umpires quitting because of bad behaviour, of being abused and threatened.
“When I was still umpiring, I realised it was no longer a gentleman’s game. It was about winning and the attitude of the players left a lot to be desired.
“It was traditional to applaud a batsman when he reached 100, but that is often not the case now. It is about trying to kill or abuse him in the process.”
Holder added that it looks likely the introduction of red cards will take effect from October 1 so it will be implemented first in the southern hemisphere.
Local umpires will be retrained during the winter and will be able to watch developments Down Under before they take to the field here for the 2017 season.
Holder pointed out there was an additional problem confronted by umpires last summer when the weather was abnormally wet.
To put pressure on umpires to call off games, threats were made to sue the match officials if the match went ahead and players were hurt due to the state of the ground.
Holder said: “It’s a sad state of affairs and something has to be done or it will reach the stage when players have to umpire games themselves because officials won’t tolerate being abused, threatened and even assaulted.
“We are losing umpires and there is no incentive to join the list. I have asked former players to get involved but they don’t want the hassle.
“In saying that umpiring is still the best job in the world as it enables you to see the game from a perspective nobody else does.”