CRICKET: NCU Section One clubs to hold crisis talks over professionals

Lurgan's Niranjan Godbole has been coming to Pollock Park for the last 15 years
Lurgan's Niranjan Godbole has been coming to Pollock Park for the last 15 years

NCU Section One clubs are to hold a summit on Wednesday night to discuss whether it is feasible for them to employ overseas professionals this summer.

New regulations brought in by the UK Borders Agency have caused chaos for clubs outside the Premier League who bring in players from abroad.

Kaushik Aphale was professional at Derriaghy last season

Kaushik Aphale was professional at Derriaghy last season

It is understood that the majority of clubs in the NCU’s second tier believe the changes mean that they are effectively barred from recruiting overseas stars.

Section Ones have already held a meeting at Woodvale’s Ballygomartin Road to discuss the issue but it finished with no consensus, with three clubs understood to be still keen on pursuing an overseas option.

The other seven clubs provisionally agreed that they would not employ a professional in 2017.

Now the clubs will meet again tomorrow, independent of the NCU, with the new season less than two months away, hoping that a consensus can be reached.

A source told the News Letter: “Most of the clubs have accepted that they shouldn’t bring a pro over this summer. But it’s causing tension in Section One because three clubs aren’t playing ball.”

One source at a Section One club said: “I’m more or less sure our club won’t be taking the risk. The Home Office have been pretty clear they’re going to clamp down this year.”

If there are no professionals in Section One this summer, it will of course have ramifications for the players themselves. For instance Niranjan Godbole, the hugely respected Indian batsman, has been coming to Lurgan every summer for the last 15 years.

A number of players have been stuck in limbo, wondering whether they will be playing in Northern Ireland or not.

The issue is also causing chaos in the North West. After weeks of confusion and discussion, a source told the News Letter that Championship clubs are effectively scrapping overseas plans and instead turning to players with British passports who could be employed legally.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the NCU explained that its directors met on Saturday to discuss changes to the Home Office rules and enforcement changes.

“The rules also state that Standard Visitor Visa (SVV) holders cannot play for NCU Premier League clubs, but may play in Senior League Sections 1 and 2. Players entering on SVVs must be amateur cricketers and are not allowed to be paid a salary for playing or coaching, though they may receive financial assistance towards flights, accommodation and living expenses,” said the statement. “The revised Home Office definition of an amateur is: “An ‘Amateur’ is a person who engages in a sport or creative activity solely for personal enjoyment and who is not seeking to derive a living from the activity. This also includes a person playing or coaching in a charity game.”

“The NCU directors have considered all available information on this matter, including confirmation from the Home Office and Cricket Ireland, and representations from NCU clubs. The Directors can confirm that these changes have been made mandatory by the Home Office and therefore need to be applied with immediate effect.

“Clubs are advised that the responsibility for ensuring that players meet the Home Office criteria lies with them. Neither the NCU nor Cricket Ireland is qualified to give advice on immigration matters.

“If clubs require more information, they should study the guidance available on the Home Office website https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules or contact UKVI direct.”