Club Cricket Conference

Wednesday, 22nd May 2024

Yorkshire's new club pyramid rises as if by magic

By Charles Randall

26 March 2015

The achievement among Yorkshire clubs in organising the county's many disparate leagues into four area pyramids for 2016 could be regarded as little short of earth-shaking.

The old Yorkshire League, geographically enormous, has been scrapped and split into north and south. The North Yorkshire South Durham and Bradford leagues are to head the other two areas. Four champions graduate to play-off semi-finals – probably at Headingley and Scarborough - and the final is envisaged for Abu Dhabi after the end of the season in October.

In the largest county by far, with more than 750 clubs and roughly 21,000 active players, the new Yorkshire Premier Cricket set-up will offer a clear-cut pathway for the strongest clubs. Each area has agreed its own pyramid leagues, the result of more than a year of discussions. Match format details and the necessary sponsors have still to be announced.

All four areas are expected to start with ECB Premier status, and the schedules will reduce travel time significantly while maintaining standards. Distances have been identified generally as one cause of cricket's shrinking playing numbers and led to the split of the widely spread Home Counties League in 2013.

Yorkshire North will feature seven members of the old Yorkshire League - York, Scarborough, Harrogate, Hull, Castleford, Driffield and the Yorkshire Academy – and this pyramid top will be completed by five teams from the York Senior League.

Yorkshire South contains Barnsley, Rotherham, Sheffield Collegiate, Sheffield United, Doncaster, Cleethorpes and Appleby Frodingham. The South Yorkshire League supplies three clubs and the Central Yorkshire League two.

The Bradford League will be the ready-made pinnacle in the west, with the Central Yorkshire as its 'partner', and the existing North Yorkshire South Durham will cover the far north. Talks are ongoing to add more clubs to the pyramids; nobody will be compelled to join.

The birth of Yorkshire Premier Cricket is remarkable in that co-operation has replaced old rivalries and pride has been kicked out by pragmatism. For example, the Bradford League, fiercely independent for 112 years, voted 20-1 in December to buy into the new vision, which will have stronger clubs jostling for promotion from the tier below. This no doubt will mean that a few of the more eminent clubs will slip downwards while the new structure moves forward.

A Yorkshire Premier Cricket board is to oversee the structure with the Bradford League official Alan Birkinshaw as chairman. The board will feature two representatives from each of the premier leagues plus Mark Arthur, chief executive of Yorkshire CCC, and Andrew Watson, an official with the Yorkshire Cricket Board. Arthur and Watson spent many hours on the road as architects of the initiative.

It has been a nice coincidence that Yorkshire Premier Cricket has been finalised  at a time when Yorkshire are county champions. Arthur, a club cricketer himself, commented: “It is right and proper that Yorkshire, as the largest and most successful cricketing county, has a pyramid structure that will enable the best club players to play against each other on a regular basis in the most competitive league structure in the country. From 2016 onwards, there will be no argument as to which club is the best in Yorkshire.”

Watson added: “After many months of planning and consultation we are at a most exciting time for league cricket in Yorkshire, but still keeping its history and tradition. League cricket in Yorkshire is woven into the fabric of everyday life and this will enhance it for decades to come.”

The Yorkshire set-up should provide food for thought for counties without proper pyramids - such as Surrey and, most notably, Lancashire - and those with wide geographical spreads that require clubs to travel long distances, such as East Anglia.