The 19th season of the league was played in some of the best weather we have seen for many years and, despite having to reschedule the opening league matches, thereafter very few matches were cancelled or abandoned through adverse weather conditions. South Northumberland retained the Premier Division title, going through the season undefeated for their twelfth championship trophy. John Graham and Simon Birtwisle both passed 10,000 Premier Division runs and Lee Crozier took his 1000th 1st XI wicket. South Northumberland also won the T20 competition defeating Brandon in the final. The winners of the First Division were Burnopfield in only their second season in the NEPL, so they are promoted to the Premier Division.
Tynemouth won the Second Division for only the second time, Washington won the Third Division and are promoted together with Sunderland. South Northumberland, Hetton Lyons and Castle Eden, in their first season in the NEPL, won the Sunday Leagues with Gateshead Fell retaining the Midweek League. Chester-le-Street won the Banks Salver and Banks Bowl, South Northumberland won the 1st XI T20, 2nd XI T20 and Banks Cup and Sacriston won the Banks Shield. A successful bid to the ECB Innovation Fund enabled two new 3rd XI competitions to be run, won by Chester-le-Street and Sunderland.
Our junior competitions were successful with a range of Clubs performing well, and our thanks go to the Junior Sub-Committee for their commitment and hard work.
The Management Committee met ten times in 2017/18. It was a year of considerable upheaval and difficulty for the NEPL and the Management Committee. It started with the long-running managed migration investigation, shortly before the start of the season Seaham Harbour withdrew from the league, there were some complicated disciplinary matters to investigate during the season, Brandon failed to achieve Clubmark accreditation by the deadline date, Durham Cricket Academy announced that they wished to withdraw from the Premier Division and more recently there has been the withdrawal of Stockton to join the NYSD. Both the Academy and Stockton were founder members of the NEPL and have contributed a great deal during the past 19 years. We will be sorry to lose them.
For the 2019 season we are pleased to welcome Crook Town from the Durham Cricket League and Ashington and Shotley Bridge from the Northumberland and Tyneside Cricket League. We are grateful to both leagues and to the Pyramid Management Board for enabling these three Clubs to be promoted.
Clubs are to be congratulated for dealing efficiently with Disciplinary Regulations and Results Reporting Procedures. Players and umpires generally dealt well with the new Laws of Cricket and the number of on-field disciplinary offences remains low. The League Management Committee regrets the need to impose fines for not complying with administrative procedures but this is considered necessary to assist in the efficient running of the NEPL and to help ensure that we comply with ECB requirements.
I wish to thank our major sponsors, Dukes Cricket Balls and the Banks Group, for their continued support. The Banks Group deserve special thanks for extending their sponsorship to include our T20 competitions. I wish also to thank our panel of umpires and the dedicated work of Peter Brown as our appointments officer. All 1st XI matches had two umpires but many 2nd XI league matches had only one umpire. Like all leagues the NEPL needs more umpires and we would ask Clubs to encourage players who are coming to the end of their playing days to take up umpiring.
I would also like to thank all members of the League Management Committee for their dedicated work during the past 12 months. We welcomed John Smithson back to the Committee but lost Marcus North following his appointment as Durham’s new Director of Cricket. We are pleased to welcome Martin Pollard, who was a member of our Playing Formats Panel, as Marcus’ replacement, subject to confirmation by the NCB at its AGM.
The Annual Dinner and Presentation evening was enjoyable and successful and I would like to thank all those involved in its organisation, but particular recognition goes to Keith Shaw. We have received some feedback from Clubs following the event and will take that into account in planning for our 20th Anniversary dinner in 2019.
I reported last year that the NEPL had been participating in ongoing consultations by the ECB on the future of Premier Leagues, as one aspect of a wider review of the structure of recreational and first class cricket. These discussions have continued during 2018 and the ECB Board is due to consider the outcome of this review on the same day as our AGM. We are confident that the future of Premier Leagues is secure but it is likely that we will be required to become more involved in wider initiatives with the Durham and Northumberland Cricket Boards.
In addition to the motions presented to the AGM, the LMC and its Sub-Committees will be carefully examining all points discussed at the post-season meetings with umpires and Clubs officials and in response to the Club survey we recently carried out on playing conditions. Many interesting suggestions have been made and all will be given full consideration in deciding what changes to our rules, regulations and procedures will further improve NEPL cricket.