WITH Elton’s move to the Central Lancashire League next season now confirmed, it is time to separate the fact from the fiction regarding rumours that other clubs are looking to follow them out of the Association.
Speculation has been rife over the last few months with six clubs at the heart of all the talk.
Elton, Astley and Tyldesley, Bury, Atherton, Swinton Moorside and Winton have all been understood by many to be seeking to play their cricket elsewhere.
The rumour mill has been working overtime, and not without plenty of substance.
All six expressed an interest in joining either the Central Lancashire League or the Lancashire County League – or, in Bury’s case – both.
But only Elton are going.
The other five have withdrawn their expressions of interest and have committed themselves to staying in the Association.
Elton, who have been in the Association for 21 seasons, believe that by moving to the Central Lancashire League they should find it easier to hold on to good players who have come through their junior teams.
The trigger for the other clubs to start looking elsewhere was three-fold.
The first was the news that Elton were leaving.
The second came when the Lancashire County League made it known they were looking for new clubs to join them.
And third was when word spread around Association clubs that one or two of their clubs were showing an interest in what the LCL had to offer and that Bury were exploring the possibility of joining the LCL or the CLL.
Bury were open and honest with the Association committee throughout this process.
The doubts over the future set-up of the Association caused established members Atherton and Astley and Tyldesley, and new clubs Winton and Swinton Moorside – who were both yet to bowl a ball in the Association – to express an interest in the LCC.
The rumours went into overdrive that clubs were leaving, and they continued even after all five clubs withdrew their expressions of interest after the matter was discussed between the clubs and the Bolton Association committee.
It’s good to talk, as they say.
Now, the Association may be considering a replacement for Elton for next season to ensure they remain at 18 clubs.
But this is one of several options the league is considering before its next league meeting.
On their departure, however, Elton chairman Geoff Hall said: “Our main reason for moving is for the development of our junior cricketers.
“We have been in the Bolton Association for 21 years and we have developed kids from under-9s through to under-18s.
“The organisation of the juniors at the Bolton Association has been very good.
“What we have had a problem doing is hanging on to them in their later years and we are hoping that by moving to the Central Lancashire League those juniors will stick with us.”
Elton have had a successful spell in the Association, winning the league twice and the Cross Cup five times.
“We have developed the club and ground in that time and now we are moving on to new pastures,” said Hall.
Association chairman Frank Jackson said: “Elton have wanted to go a couple of times in the past so I think it is third time lucky for them.
“Everything was done how it should be done by them and by the Central Lancashire League.
“They thanked the league for everything we have done for them and we wished them well for the future.
“We are happy that all the other teams seem to be happy with what we are doing in the Bolton Association.
“There has been a rumour mill that has just started up that clubs are looking to leave but that doesn’t look to be the case.
“Because of the rumours some of the new clubs who have just joined us were starting to wonder if they had jumped out of the fire and into the frying pan.
“I can understand that but I think they are seeing that the Bolton Association is run differently to the Manchester Association.”
Bury were among five other clubs in the Association who expressed an interest in joining other leagues but have since withdrawn those expressions of interest.