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Would we really expect to play senior cricket without Umpires?

Noel McCarey, Chairman NIACUS

The 2011 season is now upon us, and as all Northern Cricket Union clubs look forward with anticipation and enthusiasm to the new season’s challenges, could I politely ask the perennial question, “Can we play senior cricket without Umpires”. As cricket enthusiasts we usually approach the start of every cricket season here in Northern Ireland after a winter of reading websites as well as having listened intently to the whispers between club members on the excitement and expectations for the new season. Players moving clubs, overseas professionals, ground conditions and which teams are going to get relegated, strongly focus our minds long before the season actually starts.

Throughout these thought processes do we ever wonder how, as cricket enthusiasts, we are ever going to provide the umpires to officiate at the Ulster Bank Premier League, Section 1, Section 2, Section 3 and Junior League Section 1 matches? The mathematics is very simple on this one. Thirty Seven registered clubs in senior cricket and 10 registered teams in Junior 1, requires on any given match day 46 practicing NIACUS umpires. We must also take into account participating umpires being unavailable on match days for a wide variety of reasons.

Now the realities check figures.  NIACUS have on the 2011 grading file 45 graded umpires for this season. Add to that the unavailability scenario and the year on year problem now becomes clear once again.  It is very simple equation now, as NCU cricket needs new and enthusiastic umpires to join NIACUS urgently. If the current lack of new numbers trend continues we are only a short step away from being able to cover the Premier League and Section 1 only. Surely this cannot be the way forward for cricket lovers within the NCU area.

 If this is the case, are all NCU clubs and their members comfortable with the fact that everything possible has been done to ensure every Senior League team and Junior 1 team will go into action every match day having official umpires each time? Most likely the clubhouse answer to this question will be something like, “what has it got to do with us”. Maybe this statement is not correct and all the clubs have done their upmost to encourage players, ex players and interested persons to join the umpiring ranks. If this is the case where did the new budding umpires go to, as the normal low level of applicants attending the excellent umpires entry level training course certainly did not reflect clubs decisions to put forward candidates for umpiring during 2011.
As all requests appear to have failed in the search for new umpire members, than maybe it has become time for one more NCU rule change to be made. Yes it may look draconian but it appears the time is now here for it to be mandatory for all senior clubs to provide trained umpires to enable all senior cricket matches to have NIACUS officials at all times.

Cricket in the NCU area is well structured and has many avid followers and I am sure all players and supporters are well aware of this shortage of official’s issue. Before this problem gets out of proportion, is there any chance of a solution? Yes of course it can be solved with the goodwill of all clubs and their members. The solution rests with them alone.