A LEADING official has admitted that the Craven League is at a crossroads.

The league have lost 26 cricket teams in 12 years, and league secretary Peter Foster has admitted that they are at a fork in the road.

He said: “The league is at a crossroads – there is no mistaking that.

“If we go straight ahead then we just invite the previous 10 or so years to come crashing down on us.

“Do we turn left or do we turn right?

“If we turn left, do we amalgamate what we have got or do we turn right and then look to embrace clubs coming into the league?

“Either way, we have got to spice up the league.”

Of course, the Craven League are not alone in shedding teams, but they are at least looking at how to stop the bleeding or even increase their membership.

Among the options discussed at a recent league meeting at Cross Hills Social Club are switching the Manorlands Plate into The Hundred format, bringing in batting and bowling bonus points to league matches and regionalising divisions to make travel less onerous and make it easier to bring in new clubs.

Foster said: “I went to Headingley to see one of The Hundred games. I went with mixed feelings because at heart I am a bit of a purist but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

“It was done with a little bit of razzmatazz and it went down brilliantly with the crowd – they loved it.

“I thought that if we could incorporate this next year and put a little bit of interest back into it for the players, the logical way to do that would be to transform the Manorlands Plate from a T20 format into The Hundred format.

“I was disappointed with the entry for the Manorlands Plate this year (only seven clubs entered what is a fundraiser for the Oxenhope-based hospice), and that disappointment has manifested itself many times in other ways, and it is all laid at the door of Covid.

“Covid has brought so many problems, not just with restrictions on people meeting and moving, keeping a safe distance from each other, sanitisation etc.

“It has taken a load of our umpires away. It has taken a lot of players away because the golf courses were opened up before the cricket pitches and people who were golfers started to play and when the cricket re-opened, they continued to play golf.

“To quote Boris Johnson, we need to build back better and brainstorm what we need to do as a league.

“As I said earlier, we are going to have to look at options. Do we allow clubs to come in from outside our heartland? But we have to do something.

“I am hoping the format of The Hundred will attract a lot of people to finals day. Spectators will not see one game, they will not see two games, they will see three games in The Hundred format and it is really exciting.

“If individual clubs want to raise money in earlier rounds (raffles, tombolas etc), we would embrace that as a league but our main emphasis would be on finals day.”

As for bringing in bonus points, Foster said: “Some of the ideas on batting and bowling bonus points that have been floated from various leagues taken individually would need some work to fit in with the Craven League, but what we can do is cherry pick.

“We can look at one league and say that we like that and incorporate something from that, we can look at another league and incorporate something from that but most of these options come from leagues senior to us and it would be unfair to start the points for batting at 125.

“The points system for batting would need to come down a little but what I can say is that the clubs overall seem all in favour of it.

“Maybe in Division Four it would need to come down to 75 runs as a starting point as that is made up primarily of young players who don’t have a massive experience of 45 (or 40) overs league cricket or what it entails and we will have to cut our cloth accordingly and cater for those younger players.”

Foster added: “I am in favour of regionalisation, although we still have got to talk about it in detail, but the idea is of having a First Division or Premiership Division competition among like-minded quality players who would travel throughout the region, with the lower tiers being regionalised.

“It is unfortunate that in Division Two we have a mixture of first teams and second teams, and some may see that as an imbalance, but my personal view is that we have a Premiership division with the rest being regionalised.”