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The Greater Manchester Cricket League is set to take shape
Thursday 18th June 2015 @ 11:49 by Mark Phillip

The debate on the future of league cricket in the Greater Manchester area has taken a number of turns in the last two weeks.

Supported by the Lancashire Cricket Board, the original proposal of bringing together a number of leagues into a pyramid structure was designed to increase participation, and provide greater competition.

There has been a varying response from the leagues which operate for Clubs in the Tameside area.

The Greene King Lancashire County League has seen the majority of its clubs opting to join the new Greater Manchester Cricket League from the start of next season.

Amongst these are the three Denton clubs; Dukinfield; Glossop and Woodhouses.

2015 is therefore the last season for the LCL, which has been joined by the North Manchester League, including Ashton Ladysmith.

At the time of going to press, 45 clubs in total had opted for the new system, including Heywood and Clifton from the Central Lancashire League.

The proposal has not, however, been met with universal approval, with the Central Lancashire and Saddleworth Leagues pulling out of the talks, and entering discussions about a ‘Pennine League’ merger.

Westleigh are the latest club to have joined the league following their win last Saturday.

One club who are openly delighted at the way in which things have transpired are Denton West.

On behalf of the club, former Chairman and web administrator, Simon Lowndes, detailed the reason for joining the league. He said: “I’ve been involved in league cricket for a long time, but I think the time has come to introduce some tougher competition and improve the level we’re playing at.”

Denton West has accumulated more silverware than any other club during their 21 year spell in the Lancashire County League.

However, Simon – a GMCL Steering Group member – is more than prepared to shift the gears. He added: “We’ll be playing against better teams next season, but we’re quite prepared to give up winning trophies for a better standard of cricket.

“We knew what our players wanted in terms of better competition, so the committee made a decision based upon that.”

The clubs which have rejected the invite of joining the GML have cited travelling as an issue.

However, Simon countered that argument, saying: “I don’t think travel is an issue for those that want to play the best cricket.

“We have to travel to Glossop, Woodbank and Roe Green, which are lengthy journeys at the best of times.

“I understand that people are concerned about the history of leagues, but that will never go away.

“We don’t see it as a short term plan, rather a long term vision, and hopefully every club will join it.”

Club Chairman, Paul Carter, echoed Simon’s sentiments, stating: “We believe the new league will improve standards of our game by offering more consistent competition throughout the season for all our teams.

“We are proud that we already play 15 or more home grown players every week in our two senior teams and that our third team is used every game to develop more junior players.”

The driving force behind the various proposals is a clear recognition that the current systems do need improving if league cricket is to continue to prosper.

What is certain is that the make-up of league cricket in the Greater Manchester area is going to look very different as next April dawns.