WESTHOUGHTON Cricket Club secretary Martin Hodgkiss has questioned the future direction of the Bolton League after the club was refused permission to register Lancashire player Oliver Newby.

The 29-year-old seam bowler, who has taken 130 wickets in 51 first-class matches, had agreed to turn out for Westhoughton this season as an amateur when not on county duty.

But the move was blocked by the Bolton League rules and competitions committee, citing rule 13a, which stops players from turning out for a club when they are also registered to a club in another league.

Westhoughton appealed against the decision, but that was turned down, and last year’s Bolton League runners-up are now waiting for a written explanation before deciding what further action to take.

Hodgkiss said: “The opportunity is there for everybody to get a player to attach themselves to a club when not on county duty, whether that is from a first or second team,” he said.

“The opportunity is there if the rules are deemed to allow it, and we believe they do, but bureaucracy is getting in the way of progress.”

Westhoughton argued that Lancashire CCC compete in a competition not affiliated to the Lancashire Cricket Board.

They also cited incidents of players representing the county at colts and youth level while competing for Bolton League clubs.

And their appeal highlighted other LCB-affiliated leagues, such as the Liverpool Competition, Northern League and Cheshire Premier, which allow county players to register for clubs.

Mike Hall, chairman of the Bolton League, declined to discuss the details of the complaint but the league issued a statement outlining their position.

“The Bolton Cricket League Appeals Panel met on Thursday, January 23, to consider an appeal from Westhoughton Cricket Club in respect of their request for the Lancashire County Cricket Club’s contracted player Oliver Newby to be registered as an amateur playing member,” the statement read.

“The Leagues Rules and Competitions sub committee had previously heard this request and had concluded that Oliver Newby was ineligible under our current League rules.

“This matter was considered further by the appeals panel and they supported the decision reached by the Rules and Competitions sub committee and also took into consideration the Lancashire Cricket Board’s qualification rules for the Lancashire Cup and also the ECB qualification rules for national competitions, and in both cases Mr Newby would have been ineligible.”

It is understood the league did not want to set a precedent that would see clubs recruiting county players to play mainly in important games and risk distorting the outcome of the championship.

Hodgkiss believes those concerns are not justified, and warned the decision could actually jeopardise the future of the league.

“With this ruling there is a real possibility that we could lose rising county stars such as (Farnworth SC pair) Josh Bohannon and Hasseeb Hameed and Bradley Yates (Bradshaw wicketkeeper batsman), who seemingly would not be able to represent their county and continue playing for their clubs,” he said.

“We have already lost young talents like Matthew and Callum Parkinson to the Cheshire Premier and Adnan Ghaus to the Liverpool Competition.

“And now you have got a local lad like Oliver (Newby), who lives in Over Hulton and is being denied the opportunity of turning out for one of his local sides.

“He has chosen the Bolton League as a place he wants to play recreational cricket and yet the league is encouraging him to go and look elsewhere.

“We are only trying to raise standards to those set by other leagues.

“It is acknowledged there is a real need for change and other leagues seem to be adapting to reflect that.

“They just seem to have a little bit more vision.

“Where’s our vision? At the moment we just seem to be treading water. There’s nothing meaningful happening.”