THE ENCO Halifax League have realised that they must play hardball with their member clubs over the recruitment of umpires.

The league’s Association of Cricket Officials president Ray Taylor told the league’s annual meeting at Copley Cricket Club: “We have 38 or 39 regular umpires and we need 45 to staff games every weekend.”

The league had already formed an umpires’ sub-committee who have come up with a five-year plan to try and solve the shortage.

They have come up with annual proposals for the 2022 season right up to the 2026 season after 128 matches last season had no league umpire standing - a figure which would have been much higher were it not for Covid-19 leading to cancellations.

Ten clubs currently do not provide an umpire, with some officials having retired or opted to stand less often, meaning that umpires’ appointments secretary Andrew Mitchell has grown tired of “firefighting” and will quit if the situation continues.

Every club that currently does not provide a ‘full-time’ umpire (or multiple ‘part-time’ umpires) to the current list must do so to Mitchell by February 28, all of whom must be ACO (Association of Cricket Officials) registered and DBS checked.

In subsequent years, all clubs must provide at least one ‘full-time’ affiliated league umpire, and they will then be expected to stand in a reasonable number of games each season.

The alternative to this proposal is that all clubs must provide a second-team umpire for all home and away games for the 2022 season, meaning that there would be no ‘neutral’ umpire standing in any second-team fixture.

To help facilitate these options, the league, via the Halifax Umpires’ Association, will run an entry-level course in January 2022, the cost of which is being paid for by the league.

In addition, all ACO membership will be covered for the initial year so that there will be no cost to either the club or the umpire.

Each new recruit will be eased in via second-team matches and will have a mentor with him or her for the first month of the season.

The Halifax League will have the power to fine clubs that fail to comply, and if teams do not ‘play ball’ in first-team matches they will have to find one of their players to umpire and play one short.

A total of 12 points can be deducted for first and second-team matches if a club consistently fails to provide an umpire.

The sub-committee will also bid to raise standards of umpiring in areas such as discipline, renumeration and by having ex-players watch from the sidelines to provide constructive feedback.