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Opinion: The One League structure vote left us with more questions than answers

PUBLISHED: 13:40 23 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:40 23 January 2020

What next for Norfolk cricket clubs following last week's One League structure rejection? Picture: Mick Howes

What next for Norfolk cricket clubs following last week's One League structure rejection? Picture: Mick Howes

Archant

The One League structure vote failed to meet the threshold required to revolutionise Norfolk cricket - so what's next? Neal Widdows reports

Despite 70 percent of cricket clubs in Norfolk voting in favour of merging the Norfolk Cricket Alliance (NCA) and Norfolk Cricket League (NCL) into a single league structure, the Norfolk Cricket Board (NCB) will not proceed with 'One League' at this time.

This is because the NCB had stated prior to the vote that 65 percent approval would be required from both NCA and NCL clubs. Whilst this threshold was comfortably achieved in the NCL, only 54 percent of NCA clubs supported the proposals.

Questions will undoubtedly be asked of the NCB as to why they will not proceed at this time, despite the clear mandate provided by the clubs.

Granted, the thresholds (which came about as a result of pressure from clubs), were not met, but that does not detract from the fact that seven out of 10 clubs want a change from the broken system that has had a detrimental impact on Norfolk cricket, and as things stand, will continue to do so for another two seasons at least.

Ironically, had the split been precisely 65-35 across both leagues, the proposal would have passed with less support than it commands now.

The NCB were right to require a super-majority, but they botched the execution. Rather than requiring super-majorities from both leagues, they should have insisted on a 65 percent overall approval, and a simple majority support from the leagues. The NCB must also answer as to why abstentions were counted as no's, and not discarded.

The outpouring of disappointment and anger on social media since the result was announced now leaves the NCB with a dilemma.

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Clubs are not willing to wait another year for the inevitable green light. Dare I say it, there are even parallels with the dreaded 'B' word.

People have voted for change, and yet change is not immediately forthcoming. Such a stance has the ability to cause a level of division and anger which could tear Norfolk cricket apart, at a time when it needs to unite to tackle the problems it faces.

How I see it, the NCB faces two options. Either they must engage immediately with those clubs who voted against One League to find out why and use the feedback to make tweaks which will enable these clubs to support the single league structure. Once complete, they bring back the vote as soon as possible to enable clubs to approve One League in time to implement it for 2021 as originally planned. Alternatively, the NCB could rightly claim the clubs have given them the mandate they were seeking, and proceed anyway, safe in the knowledge that they will be strongly supported.

The clubs themselves may well be able to assist on that front. A letter of support from all 61 clubs who supported One League to the NCB could well give them the assurances and the strength they need to press on. Clubs are desperate for new beginnings, but they need to be prepared to take a stand and fight for what they have voted for in significant numbers, numbers which the authorities simply cannot ignore.

The two leagues themselves also need to digest these results and what they mean for their own futures. The NCL has consistently supported the principle of 'One League', and once abstentions are taken into account, only one NCL club actively rejected the proposals.

For the NCA, the situation is more difficult. At October's end of season meeting, a show of hands amongst Alliance clubs showed very little support for One League. Fast forward four months, and One League now has majority support amongst Alliance clubs. This change in thought was in no doubt aided, by a well-intentioned, but ultimately ill-judged letter urging clubs to oppose One League, which ended up having the opposite effect.

It also reinforced beliefs held by many in Norfolk cricket circles, that the Alliance committee are more interested in preservation and isolation, than the development of Norfolk cricket as a whole.

What should be clear to the Alliance committee from Thursday's result, is that they no longer command the confidence and support of the majority of its member clubs. They are now faced with a stark choice - either continue to fight the inevitable, causing potentially irreparable harm to Norfolk cricket in the process - or they can accept they no longer offer what Norfolk cricket wants, and consider both their opposition to One League and their positions going forward. Their reaction to the results at the league's forthcoming AGM will be awaited with bated breath.

Much soul searching and decision making awaits in the coming months, but one thing is for sure - change is coming to Norfolk cricket. The only question is if not now, then when?

Let us know what you think of the One League structure and whether it should be adopted - email norfolksport@archant.co.uk

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