Imagine living in Yorkshire but not being part of the Yorkshire cricket system. That is the frustrating reality for three districts in the western part of the county, Saddleworth, west Craven and Dentdale, which have been administered by ‘non Yorkshire’ county councils since 1974 and are consequently outside Yorkshire cricket’s jurisdiction. Saddleworth and west Craven areas are completely within the Lancashire system whilst Sedbergh and Dentdale are the sole responsibility of Cumbria. I believe the Yorkshire CCC both belongs to and represents the whole of the proper county and that this situation is highly unsatisfactory.
As a result of my own frustration with this matter I have begun creating links between Yorkshire cricket and these ‘lost’ areas by coordinating funding by the Yorkshire Ridings Society, the Saddleworth White Rose Society, the Corridor of Uncertainty (a message board for Yorkshire cricket supporters) and private individuals, to pay for cricket coaching in these proper Yorkshire districts by Pro Coach Yorkshire, a coaching wing of the Yorkshire CCC. This ‘Yorkshire cricket boundary project’ which it could be termed, has been successfully organising cricket coaching for two years and I intend it to continue evermore.
The problem obviously goes back to 1974 when these districts found themselves outside the new Yorkshire council areas and crucially outside the Yorkshire schools system but ironically was made worse when county cricket boards were introduced across the country in the late nineteen eighties to oversee and promote club, youth and schools cricket, because unfortunately they mostly took the post 1974 council districts as their markers. Happily in the North Riding those areas south of the Tees which were once administered by ‘Cleveland County Council’ – but are within the ‘ceremonial’ area of ‘North Yorkshire’ - are under the jurisdiction of the Yorkshire Cricket Board an d thankfully clubs then within the ‘Humberside County Council’ boundaries went into the Yorkshire system.
However, the aforementioned districts in the West Riding have been cast adrift from the otherwise extensive Yorkshire cricket system so that all of the best young cricketers in those western border areas are coached by and selected by either Lancashire or Cumbrian authorities. This has had an effect on the Yorkshire side as Kyle Hogg from Greenfield CC in Saddleworth and Glen Chapple of Earby CC in west Craven have represented Lancashire rather than Yorkshire, the latter being one of the best county bowlers over the past twenty years, whilst the recently retired Aaron Brindle from Barnoldswick in west Craven played for Lancashire and England women’s teams.
The Yorkshire Cricket Board is unable to act in areas outside its jurisdiction but can the Yorkshire County Cricket Club itself intervene? Interestingly its Rules and Regulations state, ‘ The objects of the club shall be “ the promotion and furtherance of cricket in Yorkshire (which term in these Rules shall mean the City of York and the Counties of the North, East and West Ridings of Yorkshire as legally constituted prior to the coming into effect of the Teesside Order 1967) ” ‘ (object 4.1) However, those laudable aims cannot be fully achieved as the county club has no authority in Saddleworth, West Craven or Sedbergh/Dentdale because of the work of county boards whose coaching programmes filter the best players through to the county clubs!
Nevertheless, the private individual and campaign groups are free to operate in those districts and as a result I have coordinated funding by the previously mentioned bodies to successfully organise coaching by Pro Coach Yorkshire. To date Saddleworth School in Uppermill and West Craven Technical High School in Barnoldswick have received coaching on their premises during PE lessons whilst parties of their best young players have been to Headingley to the indoor cricket centre for coaching. Pro Coach Yorkshire cricket coaches have also travelled out to train youngsters at Sedbergh Cricket Club and Dent Primary School. In addition students from Todmorden High School have been to Headingley for coaching as the local district has close ties with the Lancashire system.
All the schools/clubs have been delighted with the coaching and all would like more. The teachers/coaches are glowing in their praise whilst the young cricketers have been enthused by the experience, especially the visits to Headingley. Their cricketing skills have been enhanced whilst we have successfully promoted Yorkshire cricket in Yorkshire districts where there has been no proper Yorkshire input. As a result people who have been told to look west are now being encouraged to look east back into their traditional and proper county. The students return home and tell their friends and families all about their experience and word spreads that Yorkshire have shown a practical interest in them and their area.
My belief is that if you show an interest in people then they will respond positively. For decades now Yorkshire CCC, Yorkshire schools and the Yorkshire Cricket Board have not been allowed to encourage or foster cricket in those districts and the respective Lancashire and Cumbria cricket authorities have been the only ones ‘allowed‘ input and influence. This situation has existed for four decades and as a result county loyalties may have been compromised especially when youngsters are selected for county youth sides.
I need to make it clear that the ultimate aim of the coaching project is NOT to lure the best young cricketers outside Yorkshire’s domain into the Yorkshire system for that is not allowed. ( Indeed Yorkshire cricket authorities are especially careful to abide by such rules as young Yorkshire cricketers have been ‘poached’ more than those of any other county and Yorkshire have had much input into the regulations.) No, the object is to renew links between Yorkshire cricket and those outlying but proper Yorkshire districts which have been ‘lost’ to the Yorkshire system. The idea is to show people of all ages in those border areas that despite the effects of local government changes you can still consider themselves part of what I term the Yorkshire cricket ‘family’. The Yorkshire CCC and Yorkshire Cricket Boards are unable to intervene so it behoves other organisations such as campaign and pressure groups to act.
A further sign of the success of the project is that when Yorkshire CCC agreed to post an article about the first coaching in Saddleworth on their website, the Lancashire cricket authorities complained to Yorkshire! Unfortunately the Yorkshire chairman, Mr.Graves, felt he had to instruct the website to delete the piece! Clearly campaign groups must not only act but also educate and inform people in heartland Yorkshire, including those in influential jobs, so they are made aware of this highly unsatisfactory situation.