By Charles Randall
24 December 2012
The Home Counties Premier Cricket League, one of the better examples of the ECB club vision, could break up unless changes are made to the playing conditions.
The league, sponsored by Serious Cricket, has maintained high standards since formation in 2000. Division One is fed by Division Two East from Hertfordshire and by Division Two West from the Thames Valley pyramid, but the high cost of travelling long distances, supplying lunches -- a burden for some clubs -- and the long playing time has prompted a re-think.
Hertfordshire clubs Letchworth, Sawbridgeworth and Welwyn Garden City have put their weight behind a proposal to adjust the format of the league games for the 2014 season. They would like to see a reduction in overs from 120, scrapping the lunch interval and introducing a limited overs element to the programme, as in Essex and Southern leagues for example.
The league's annual meeting is due to discuss this potential threat to the status quo at High Wycombe on 22 January. Ray Wood, the league chairman, said that the league would be weaker without the Hertfordshire clubs. "I think we should work together and see how things go," he said. "Cricket's always changing and we have to take cognisance of that. It's about what the players want to do."
The depth and quality of HCPL cricket has probably matched any league in England, but journey times for early starts have come under scrutiny in an era of expensive petrol. For example, Bishops Stortford to Banbury involved a round-trip of about three hours in 2012.
In 2013 East and West will be represented almost equally in the top division, though in 13 seasons no Hertfordshire club has won the title, with Welwyn Garden City achieving a sole runners-up placing in 2010. Champions High Wycombe, Henley and Banbury have been the dominant clubs. The league was constituted without financial restrictions on paying players.