Greater Manchester Cricket League announce system restrucutre
Tuesday 10th October 2017 13:15 Sports Posted by Mark Phillip

The Greater Manchester Cricket League has undergone a restructuring process ahead of the 2018 season.

Having been formed in 2016 and successfully completed two whole seasons, the league will take on a new format next season, catering for 17 new clubs who have opted to join following the demise of the Pennine Cricket League after just two seasons.

From a local perspective, the addition of Ashton, Stayley and Micklehurst has taken Tameside’s representation to 11 teams.

Having consolidated their position in the Premier Division last season, Denton West and Denton St Lawrence will battle it out for the top prize once again, while relegated Glossop have been assigned a place in Division One B alongside Dukinfield.

Stayley have been allocated a spot in Division One A with Denton and Flowery Field, while Micklehurst have been placed in Division Two A with Droylsden.

Ashton, who were vociferous in their opposition against the demise of the Pennine Cricket League, have been placed in Division Two B, while Ashton Ladysmith are the lowest ranked side in Division Four East.

Following the restructuring announcement, Reporter Sport spoke to league director Simon Lowndes about the past two seasons and the future of the competition. “It started when I wasn’t involved” said Simon “but credit to the lads who were involved at the time, particularly Martin Kay and others from around the leagues.

“Martin was from the North Manchester Cricket League, which wasn’t of the standard of the likes of the Lancashire County, Saddleworth, Bolton, and Central Lancashire leagues.

“Martin was also looking to protect the smaller clubs – the one-team clubs – and he pulled a few people together

“It’s been well documented that the English Cricket Board like bigger structures and premier leagues in counties to produce a pinnacle.

“One Premier League in Lancashire is never going to happen, because to travel from top to bottom in a day would be ridiculous.

“The ideal would be four in Lancashire – but that’s not for us to say, that’s for the clubs to say. The clubs determine where they want to play and we have no problem with that. If clubs want to come to us, they’ve got a structure.”

After serious consideration, Ashton, Micklehurst and Stayley accepted the invitation to join the league. Simon is hoping the competition will provide the clubs with a high standard of cricket. “The Pennine League was there, but unfortunately clubs left it and went the other way, and it left them in a bit of a pickle.

“I’m really chuffed that some of the clubs have joined us because there are some superb grounds and great history with those clubs. Hopefully we can provide the cricket they want.”

In a bid to prepare for the 2018 season, the GMCL announced in July that there would be no relegations from Division One and Two. Although it made things difficult at the time, Simon believes it was the right course of action to take. “We had to do that, because it was the only way we were going to create the structure that we needed to create for 2018” said Simon.

“It allowed us to bring new teams in by creating extra divisions, but it also allowed a bit of equilibrium for the teams that were already there.

“Because of the numbers, from Division Three, I think we ended up promoting six clubs, and one club who did really well in division four – a first team – have now been promoted to division two.

“They’ve got plans to grow; they’ve clearly got a really good team and had a really good season, so they’ve been put in Division Two.

“Some people have moaned about that, but we think that’s probably the right level for them, because two of our clubs, Worsley and Hindley St Peters, are struggling to get numbers and players of quality, so they’ve asked to step down and we’ve responded to their needs.”

Although the GMCL has flourished over the past two seasons, several critics have taken aim at the travelling distances some clubs have been forced to contend with.

The 2018 season appears to have created the same problem, with Divisions One and Two not separated by a geographical split, thus increasing travelling distances for the new Pennine League clubs. When questioned about the issue, Simon said: “When you’ve got two divisions, how do you determine who goes up into the Premier League? You can only split it equally, so we’ve tried to create two equal divisions, and it means that the Pennine clubs coming into the league will have more travelling to do than they’ve had in the past, but I think the myth about how horrible the travel would be before the GMCL was formed was wiped away, and clubs have enjoyed it.”

A full interview with Simon will be aired on Tameside Radio on Friday night at 6pm. Alternatively, you can listen now on the following link: