League left on a sticky wicket over World Cup call
The West Midlands’ premier club cricketers face missing out on the weekend’s big football clash – after league chiefs dead-batted requests to rework the schedule around England v Sweden.
Players in the Staffs Clubs and Worcestershire League will get to see Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions in World Cup quarter-final action, after officials agreed proposals allowing them to view the 3pm kick-off during an extended tea break.
But their counterparts in the Birmingham League have not been so lucky.
Though the league have relaxed restrictions for second XI matches, they have also ruled first XI fixtures must proceed as planned, with only the standard 30-minute tea interval permitted.
The decision has prompted much debate, with some clubs arguing the league should have been more flexible.
But Nick Archer, the league’s general manager, believes they were left in a ‘invidious position’.
He said: “It really felt like we were between a rock and a hard place and we’d be damned whatever decision we made.
“Discussions started as early as last Friday, when the potential for a clash first become apparent. The people making this decision really were in an invidious position.
“Ultimately, we decided to relax the rules for second XI cricket, with the timings working out quite well.
“But the view remains that first XI cricket is elite cricket and should be treated as such.
“There are professional players who participate in our league, while there a number of players at the top level who receive some form of payment. There are also the umpires to consider as well.”
James Hammond, whose Wolverhampton team are due to host Moseley in the Premier Division, said: “Everyone I have spoken to, from players to umpires, wants to watch the game. It is frustrating and I think the league could have used more sense. They have been happy to relent for the second XI but not the first XI.”
Others, however, believe the league made a fair call.
Himley skipper Greg Wright, whose team host Kidderminster in Division One, explained: “Like most Saturdays, I just assumed I would be playing cricket. I don’t think there should be a change.
“If it was the final, then maybe my view would be different. But it isn’t.
“Admittedly, we have had players make some fairly strange excuses for why they won’t be available.
“That’s up to them. If someone comes in and does well, they risk losing their place.”
In the Staff Clubs League, officials will give clubs the option of bringing forward the start time to 11am and including an extended tea break, if they wish to watch the match.
Any changes had to be agreed by both captains and the league administrator informed by 6pm tonight.
There is the potential for the tea break to last longer than three hours, should England’s showdown with the Swedes go to penalties.
Similar proposals have been agreed by officials for the Worcestershire League, with matches beginning at 11am and potentially not being completed until almost 8.30pm, subject to the outcome of the clash in Russia.