THE text read: “Has the world gone mad?”

The person who sent it runs a cricket club and is concerned about the increase in the number of cricket players getting paid to play in local leagues.

Paying players is nothing new, and in ‘open’ leagues like the two most local ones – the Bolton League and the Greater Manchester League – there is nothing in the rules to stop any player being paid.

The meaning behind the aforementioned text was that the player in question would never have got money for playing a few years ago.

My contact described him as “a decent club player but not worth paying,”, then worryingly added: “the game is changing”.

That statement came as little surprise to me.

I know that the Bolton League secretary, Ray Taylor, is concerned that already clubs in the county have spent next season’s budget and are already eating into 2017's budget to pay for players for this coming season.

All 11 players who turn out on a Saturday afternoon on a village pitch in front of a couple of dozen spectators have every right to be paid and those who pay them are breaking no rules doing so.

But is it right?

Well, apart from making a mockery of the word ‘amateur’ (and introducing the phrase ‘shamateur’ into local cricket vocabulary) it is a self-defeating act, in that paying players is designed to strengthen a team but in the long term it only weakens a club.

Local cricket history is littered with clubs who have spent a lot of money on players in the past and have since tightened their purse strings.

Some have managed their budget changes well but others suffered for their overspending later.

Meanwhile, some continue to spend big while others have just started.

This week, Radcliffe Cricket Club were demoted a division in the Greater Manchester League at their own request and dropped their second team completely because they felt they would not have the finances to be competitive this season.

There is no suggestion here that they got into this situation because they spent money on players and it is to their credit that they are looking to cut their cloth accordingly.

My point is that Radcliffe’s current situation is a prime example of just how hard it is to run a cricket club financially.

Many clubs regularly explain to me how hard they have to work to raise enough money to stay in existence. They hold firework displays, beer festivals and other annual events to raise money and work all year round raising cash. So why oh why do some then spend a lot of it on players?

The reason is they want to compete and if paying is the only way of getting the best players, then so be it.

Paying players is nothing new, it has been going on for half a century at least. Indeed some clubs in these parts are spending less than they did a decade or two ago.

The flip side seems to be that at the moment some clubs are prepared to pay for players they would not have considered in the past.

Some are spending more though, and one of the reasons given to me is because of the arrival of multi-division cricket.

Clubs are desperate not to be in a lower division than they feel they should be and are splashing out to achieve it.

But what’s the point? Sooner or later the money will run out and they will find their natural level.

In the meantime, the clubs who nurture the young talent but lose them because they won’t or can’t pay are suffering.

It has to be said most clubs are well run and many have a huge number of homegrown players who have come through the ranks. Player loyalty, too, is as strong as it has ever been at many clubs.

The utopia is for clubs to spend only on a professional and the other 10 are unpaid amateurs and the money clubs make is then reinvested in juniors, coaching, equipment and facilities.

That will never happen, but it would be a starting point if clubs stopped paying average players.