Bradford Premier Cricket League chairman Bill Holmes has delivered his New Year message, ahead of the 2024 season getting underway in the spring.

Among the main topics discussed by Holmes were the need for more umpires in the league, the importance of not increasing membership fees for clubs, and a new initiative to give financial support to those wanting to improve their facilities and infrastructure.

Holmes said: “During my first year as the League's Chair, I visited all 47 clubs (and our newest club Streethouse) and have been tremendously impressed by the hard work, commitment and enthusiasm of all club officials and volunteers, without whose contribution the sound administration of BPCL would not be possible.

“A big thank you to everyone for all your efforts last year and in anticipation of your work in the season to come.

“The Management Board is very aware of the challenges faced by clubs, not only with the increasing costs of turning out two teams every weekend, but also in meeting the burden of the regulatory regimes we must all adhere to.

“We will continue to provide support and guidance whenever sought and we encourage clubs to seek advice where needed.

“My colleagues on the Board may not immediately know the answer but will certainly know a person who does.”

Diving into more specific matters, Holmes said: “A tangible manifestation of the considerable work undertaken by volunteers is the number of clubs now with ECB Clubmark accreditation.

“Building on the success of the 2022 experience when 34 clubs were accredited, a further seven secured this prized status this year.

“To have over 85 per cent of BPCL clubs accredited is a remarkable achievement and a tribute to you, which the Board readily acknowledges.

“The league will be engaging with the remaining clubs this year to help them strive for this important accreditation. Support is available both from the league and Yorkshire Cricket Board.

“I would encourage those without Clubmark to also seek guidance and help from clubs who have already completed this journey.

“Please remember that promotion to Division One cannot be achieved without Clubmark.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Can anyone put a stop to Woodlands' supremacy in the Premier Division, with the Oakenshaw club retaining their title once again last season. Can anyone put a stop to Woodlands' supremacy in the Premier Division, with the Oakenshaw club retaining their title once again last season. (Image: Ray Spencer.)

Holmes added: “I am delighted that the league will continue to benefit from the very generous sponsorship of Gordon Rigg Garden Home and Leisure.

“Their financial support is cascaded down to clubs in a number of ways which includes maintaining annual membership fees at £50 and purchasing pink balls for those clubs participating in this year's T20 competitions

“These subsidies will be worth around £8,000 in this year alone and are primarily possible by Gordon Rigg's ongoing support.

“I would therefore encourage all clubs and members to take the short trip to Junction 21 of M62 to visit their garden centres and take advantage of the discount cards provided to all clubs for use by them, their members and friends.”

As for the league’s new financial initiative, Holmes said: “The Board recognises that the above measures are by their very nature short term.

“Clubs improving their facilities and infrastructure enhance the league for the longer term and in recognition of this, the Board has established the Raising Standards account, with the specific goal of assisting clubs with capital projects.

“The Board was able to assist Carlton with the installation of its practice nets and Ossett with the purchase of a new mower, while the Board is now close to agreeing support for a third club.

“Details of how the account operates can be found on the league website in the Admin section.”

A lack of available umpires is becoming an increasing problem up and down the country, with the Bradford League no exception.

Holmes said: “The Management Board recognises and appreciates the significant contribution our match officials make to the BPCL, and I wish all members of the Match Officials Association (MOA) a very Happy New Year.

“Meetings have been taking place with MOA Executive over the course of the year to codify a new relationship between the two bodies.

“It is anticipated that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will be ratified shortly for the benefit of all the league's stakeholders.

“I look forward to working with the soon to be appointed new MOA Chair to progress all aspects of MoU.

“The recruitment and training of umpires remains a key priority.

“The continued support of club umpires in second team cricket is greatly appreciated and we will strive to provide them with greater support, as well as seeking to recruit umpires for our league panel.”

Discipline and diversity are two key areas where clubs in the Braford League have fallen short in the past, with Holmes saying: “Discipline continues to be an area where more work is needed and to that end the Board is seeking to recruit a new Disciplinary Officer.

“If anybody would like to put their name forward or would like more details, they should contact me.

“During the coming months, we will be working on a new respect charter to improve relationships between umpires, players, and club officials.

“Along with all Premier Leagues, BPCL will be implementing the Sport England Tier One Governance standard.

“This requires the Board to increase the diversity and inclusivity of its membership so that it has representation from women, ethnic minorities and all stakeholder groups.

“The Board will provide more information on this in the coming months.”