NO-ONE can accuse the Upper Airedale Junior Cricket Association of not trying to tackle issues which they feel have impeded their progress.

At their annual meeting at Cononley Sports Club, they introduced geographical conferences and Merit Leagues – on the lines of soccer's play-offs – for 2016 to reduce travelling, gave the season an earlier start and finish, revamped the days on which age groups play and gave clubs licence to play in coloured clothing.

Association secretary Terry Thompson said: "League competitions will be organised initially in geographical conferences, with a second stage of Merit Leagues to find each age-related champion.

"It's along the lines of the play-offs in soccer but with new regulations to reduce the stress levels for team managers – an issue identified as a major hurdle to further development for our clubs and players.

"We will also have a cup competition for under-nines.

"Cup matches for all age groups will be arranged on Mondays, while Sunday mornings will feature under-13s and under-nines, who will be at home on alternate weekends.

"Under-11s and under-17s will share Thursdays, with under-15s continuing to dominate Wednesdays.

"The season will start on May 1 (previously it was on St George's Day, April 23), and is scheduled to finish prior to schools breaking up for their summer holidays.

"Association members also cleared the way for clubs to adopt coloured clothing should they choose, although the UAJCA reserve the right to intervene should this in any way impede clarity of vision with red balls."

Thompson also noted that the league is stronger than it has ever been, saying that 12 of the 20 member clubs fielded three or more teams, and expected that figure to rise in 2016, and that ten players – more than any other district – gained access to the Yorkshire Pathways to Excellence coaching programme.

However, he added: "The Upper Airedale valleys do have many clubs which do not have a junior section.

"These clubs are good clubs, many of whom have been in existence for over 100 years, and we sincerely hope that that they will join us in order to secure their future."

The association were delighted that Yorkshire County Cricket Club's chief executive Mark Arthur and all-rounder Richard Pyrah were guests as their prize presentation evening at the Rendezvous Hotel, Skipton, last September.