LAST Tuesday the Bolton League chairman John Hutchinson and I attended a meeting at Old Trafford, with representatives from the England Cricket Board, Lancashire Cricket Board and nine other leagues.

The main item for discussion was the impact the new Home Office rules had on the availability of overseas amateur players.

Most of the leagues present had at some time or other engaged the services of overseas amateurs, and while most were aggrieved at the restrictions placed on former first-class players and the more promising younger players this season, some were more philosophical than others on the position.

Views expressed ranged from a suggestion that if there were to be restrictions it should be on the players of a lower standard who add little to the local game, to the feeling that as most leagues should be all amateur, then only the genuine recreational players who will not be receiving payment should be allowed over.

However, everyone was in agreement that the Home Office should be wary of restrictions that would deter other countries from admitting players from the UK.

The England Cricket Board will be meeting with the Home Office early this autumn, but were wary about what progress could be made, especially as there could be further activity relating to the overseas player at Frinton Cricket Club which I have mentioned in previous articles.

The stance of the ECB on the matter is still unclear as they will be seeking the opinion of leagues in other counties, but the likelihood is they will have an increasing influence on how league cricket is structured.

Hopefully there will be a relaxation on former first class players, and the younger players who have prospects of a first class professional career, and possibly in two or three years time there will be a change in the rules regarding professional qualifications, with players who have participated in first class T20 and other limited over competitions being allowed to come over as pro’s as well as those who play in the longer version of the game.

The downside to this is the Home Office in return may wish to restrict the number of leagues and clubs who can sign an overseas professional.

Cricket is one of the very few sports where professional players from overseas can compete in the recreational game.

One or two people expressed the opinion that with the falling standard of overseas professionals, coupled with the problems clubs have with pro’s arriving late and leaving early, their days could be numbered in some leagues anyway, or at least would no longer be compulsory.

Although former Ribblesdale League club Clitheroe have an unassailable lead at the top of the Lancashire League, it is possible the championship trophy may not be presented for a number of weeks.

In what could be an unprecedented situation in league cricket in the county, another club in the Lancashire League have made allegations that one or more of the Clitheroe players have received payment, or benefits in kind for playing for Clitheroe.

It is accepted in many other leagues, including the Bolton and Greater Manchester Leagues and the Liverpool Competition that players other than the contracted professional may be remunerated, however the Lancashire League have always maintained that only one person at each club is paid for playing.

Possible sanctions for Clitheroe include expulsion or the deduction of points, which could lead to former Northern League club Darwen taking the title.