The Northern Cricket Union’s (NCU) management board has voted to cut the number of its senior leagues from four to three.
In an email to clubs on Thursday morning, the NCU’s general secretary Bryan Milford said that the management board had decided that Sections Two and Three should play as a single league in 2018 because continuing with just five teams in Section Three would not be “viable”.
This decision means Section Three has been scrapped and that the new ‘Senior League Two’ will consist of 15 clubs who will play each other once over the course of the season.
The NCU needed to act after Cliftonville and Academy merged in the autumn to become Cliftonville Academy and both Dungannon and Newforge said they would not be participating in Section Three in 2018.
In his email, Mr Milford said: “The Management Board after considering the view of clubs have concluded that a five team Senior League 3 is not viable and that the fifteen clubs in Senior Leagues 2 and 3 should play as a single league in 2018.
“The Management Board will consult with clubs on ideas for the restructuring of the Senior Leagues for the future.”
A source at one Section Two club said he had “concerns over the disparity in playing standards within the new league” and called for an extraordinary general meeting.
He added: “The NCU needs to give assurances regarding league structures for the 2019 season. What if a club wins promotion this season but then the decision is taken to change to nine team leagues the following year? Will that club not be promoted? Perhaps an EGM should be called so all clubs know exactly what they are playing for this season.”
A consultation with clubs took place and it is understood that only three agreed with the current status quo. The majority of those who responded favoured the 15-team single league at this stage. The matter was passed at the December management board and ratified by the board of directors on Wednesday night.
The 15 teams in Senior League Two will be Cliftonville Academy, Ballymena, Ards, Belfast Super Kings, Cooke Collegians, Dundrum, Donghadee, Dunmurry, Templepatrick, Larne, Drumaness, Saintfield, BISC, Victoria, Monaghan.