THREE clubs have applied to join the Mewies Solicitors Craven League for the 2023 season.

They are Girlington and Salem Athletic, both from the Mutual Sunday School League, and a new club, AMY Bradford.

Girlington, who joined the Mutual League for the 2011 season, the year after the Bradford Central League folded, play at Little Horton Green.

Their A team were league champions in 2012, 2014 and 2016 but were relegated from Group A in 2018, then promoted after re-organisation and are currently second in Group A.

Girlington B won Group B in 2015, were third in it in 2018, fourth in it 2019 and are currently sixth in Group B.

They have won the Sir James Roberts Cup for first teams in 2016, were runners-up in 2018 and lost to Salem Athletic in the Rizues T20 Cup final for first teams last year.

Girlington B won the H Broadbent Trophy for second teams in 2013 and were runners-up in the Rizues T20 Cup final for second teams last year.

Salem Athletic, members of the Mutual League from 1907-88 and from 2011 onwards, play behind the Leylands Lane Medical Centre in Heaton.

They had a promotion double in 2011 and 2017, winning both Group B and C, and in 2012 Salem Athletic B won Group B.

In 2013, Salem Athletic A were league champions – a feat they repeated in 2018 and 2019. They are currently seventh in Group A, while their B team are fifth in Group B.

Salem Athletic B won the H Broadbent Trophy in 1954, 1956, 1972, 1985 and 2018.

AMY, who have yet to confirm where their home ground is, already have 140 members and are part of the NKAUK – a national youth organisation.

Ultimately it will be up to the current member clubs to decide whether the trio are accepted, but, even though they have applied in time according to YCB regulations for the 2022 season, a local Craven League rule, which states that they must have applied before February 28 of the previous year, prohibits them from playing in the league in 2022.

The potential influx of clubs from the Bradford side of Keighley has prompted the league to look at a possible re-organisation of the divisions geographically below the top flight in order to reduce the distance that clubs will have to travel.

Meanwhile, a sub-committee will be formed to introduce an eventual minimum set of criteria for clubs playing in the top flight, which may therefore be re-named the Premier Division.

Since the 2011 season, the Craven League have lost 22 teams (24 from 2022 if you count Embsay), who have either joined other leagues or fallen on their swords, while only six have joined – Hepworth & Idle (three teams), Silsden, Keighley III and Bingley Congs III.

League secretary Peter Foster says that Covid-19 has also had an influence on clubs’ ability to field teams, and again reminded member clubs of both current Covid-19 match-day protocols, as well as making them aware of the surge in cases in the Pendle Borough Council area, which affects players for Barrowford, Foulridge, Glusburn, Cowling and Thornton-in-Craven, and the league in general in terms of facing them.

Foster says of the decline in teams: “It’s not rocket science to realise that the league could do better. Covid has, and continues to leave its mark, with clubs losing players to other pastures like the golf course etc.

“The imposed restrictions have altered the game as we know it – and not for the better. Rest assured, the executive are well aware of the consequences of sitting idly by and letting a tide of apathy run over us.

“We are even now looking to the future, hopefully an exciting future. We already have several clubs wanting to join us and, on that note, I want to make it very clear that admission of any new clubs to our league will only be sanctioned with the approval of our member clubs.

“Your league – your say! If we go down the route of opening our doors to other clubs, this could also lead to regional competition and or a Premier League/Division.

“These are just ideas but a small committee will be tasked with looking into the possibilities and a way forward to make our league and the game of cricket more exciting and appealing. This won’t happen in the space of one or two seasons. It’s very much a case of watch this space.”

From Saturday, June 19, two scorers will be allowed for each match – as long as they socially distance – while Lords cricket balls will be trialled in matches this season with a view to more widespread use in future seasons.

Matches will remain at 40 overs per side for the season (instead of being increased to 45) if the Government guidelines are put back from June 21, and players are reminded that they cannot apply sweat or saliva to match balls.

Meanwhile, Mewies Solicitors have agreed to sponsor the league for another season.