This has been one of the hardest seasons to get all League games on a Saturday manned by two umpires with many games throughout the season having only one umpire. Division 3 was the hardest hit and my thanks to all those umpires who stood on their own and in my opinion not an enjoyable task. However, we start at the beginning.
The season was supposed to start on Saturday 14th April but such was the very wet March and April groundsman had no chance of preparing pitches and the start was put back until the 21st April-surely a week later starts in the future would benefit all. However, some grounds were still not ready despite the sun. We all had our warm weather layers on and indeed the ECBACO Chairman of Durham never took his off! From the start, the sun shone and the days got warmer insomuch being that we all enjoyed one of the warmest Summers in memory with much orange (or extract from) drunk from frequent drinks breaks. The fine weather stayed with us to near the end of the season when once more at the back end of August showers and a cold win returned and we were back to base layers and two sweaters.
Despite starting with 50 umpires for our Saturday games there was only one Saturday when all games had two umpires. Steve Barton left us before the season started and Fred Lemon halfway through. Allan Blackbird stood in his first two games and then back surgery meant that he was not available until the first week in July. Andy Unsworth had work commitments which took him out of the area but we did recruit David and Richard Martin, Keith Smith, Khalil Sheblee and Steve Mordue but Yogen Jaginsinh only stood in a minimum amount of games due to wishing to extend his playing career and work commitments. There were many cries off for one reason and another and indeed several Saturdays we had 14 umpires not available. However, we soldiered on and got through the season.
Sunday fixtures were completely different with nearly all games with two umpires and we gave starts to new umpires who still played and some new recruits from the Education programme namely Adam and Ed McLeod who I am sure gained valuable experience. We are also very fortunate in continuing to supply our umpires for top games outside the League with Minor Counties umpires in Brian Morris and Jeff Marshall plus D list umpires in Ian Warne backed up by Brian and Jeff with Chris Stonehouse on the fringe and indeed Chris stood in National games including a final. Jeff Marshall also stood in the ECB Super4 Competition while Jordan Montgomery-Else stood at the ECB Bunbury Festival in Somerset. Several of us also stood in Durham University games, Durham Academy and some friendly Durham seconds games.
However, what of the future. It is a well-known fact that there is an acute shortage of umpires certainly throughout the North, and from my travels assessing umpires in Lancashire, this once hotbed of cricket leagues and umpires are also feeling the pinch. The Education courses run by both Durham and Northumberland are second to none backed up by an exceptionally high degree of scorers coming from Keith Telford’s courses we are extremely well off in that respect with several scorers going on to score at the highest level around the country and in our very own region.
The standard of behaviour has, in my opinion, got much worse with several clubs/players showing scant regard for umpires decisions but it is still a problem with umpires not reporting and “dealing with the problem on the field”. Never a good thing as usually these players just start up again in the following game.
We need many more younger umpires to start as at present whilst we take some young and inexperienced umpires many of our recruits come from other leagues leaving their league short on numbers. I don’t have a magic wand but without help from the clubs putting forward some ex-cricketers the situation does not look likely to improve. We will soldier on but I think several of us may retire as we have several umpires carrying bad backs, hips and knees and age is no respect.
However I will decide what the Winter brings and whether I stand in my 38th season, still no match for Derek Young who retired last year in his 80s, To all who stood in the NEPL this season my thanks to you all. I have lasting memories of stopping a game to look for a contact lens!
Have a great Winter and will see you all at our Post Season Umpires meeting.
Anyone who is reading this who thinks umpiring may be for them, please check out the link, we would love to hear from you.
North East Premier League