At what point does the anticipation of a new season start? For me, it is when I start to get the responses to my requests for information for our Pre-Season Newsletter; when we start to find out who our clubs have signed for the coming season, who has gone where, who has significantly strengthened their squads – when names are put in the frames, so to speak. 
Thornes players celebrate the final act of their 2018 championship season 
A memory of the glorious summer of 2018 
At that point the speculation about which teams will do well, or not so well, becomes more informed. Having said that, we have many new names in the league this season – some arriving with excellent pedigrees– but we do not yet know how they will settle and fit in at their new clubs, and whether their reputations will be justified. 
 
As I commented in that newsletter, my own speculation has proved so wide of the mark over the last three seasons that my tipping a team to do well is a clear ‘kiss of death.’ So I determined not to indulge this year. Chris Froggett asked me for my thoughts on who would win our league, and I shared with him my opinions on the various recruitments at our clubs – but I did not answer his question. And – sorry to disappoint – I’m sticking to that. At the end of last season, I said I wanted to see a half-a-dozen teams fighting to the last day for the league championship itself, rather than to avoid the last relegation spot. I really believe that we could be in that situation this year. 
 
There will be some surprises in the first couple of games – some teams will be rustier than others, some overseas players will not have arrived, and for the only time in the season everyone starts from an equal position. But as we move into May, we will start to see who the stronger teams are. It will be fascinating to watch everything unfold, and I wish all our teams the very best of luck and weather for the forthcoming campaign. 
 
I particularly look forward to seeing our overseas players perform in our t20 competition – a format that several of them excel in – and also I look forward to our under 23s games in the latter part of the season. Bringing in players from elsewhere, whether from other parts of the UK or abroad, has its place – which should be to provide that extra bit of quality into teams. But our future has to lie in nurturing our own young players. We have some exciting young talent in our league and I was very encouraged last season by the enthusiasm that our under 23s showed for representing their league. 
 
Looking back at what has occupied my time over the winter period, I feel very lucky when I think about the big issues that two of our fellow Premier Leagues in the county have had to deal with over the last six months or so. At the same time, I really sympathise with them in having to deal with matters that they simply should not have had to do. Compared to theirs, the odd difficulties that we have had are quite trivial – but they still should not happen. People feel very passionately about their clubs and leagues, they care, and they believe that what they are doing is right. But that is no excuse whatever for being blind to the feelings of others, or for uncaringly creating disproportionate volumes of work and hassle. In the main, recreational cricket is run by volunteers who give freely of their most precious 
 
The second performance activity is league reform. That is not to say that we have to change the format of our competition to attract the payment, but to review, discuss alternative options, and consult our players and clubs. It is something that we were planning to do anyway. Last September we had early discussions in committee around a number of ideas put forward by Mark Beardshall. We will refine these in May, and put them out to clubs for consultation and discussion. 
 
The third activity is to involve a woman on our committee. I am very much against making token appointments, indeed I am against discrimination in any form; but this has caused me to think about gaps in what we do, and how we could address these in a genuine and meaningful way that would add value for the League. We will discuss some ideas on this in committee in May. 
 
At the last meeting of our Premier Leagues Management Board, the new NY&SD chief executive Geoff Cook was in attendance for the first time. As a long-serving and distinguished captain of Northamptonshire CCC and a coach and chief executive with Durham CC – an involvement in top class cricket going back to 1970 – Geoff has a huge depth of knowledge about the game. He sat and listened for over two hours, and at the end, made a single observation. He recalled that the original purpose of the creation of the Premier Leagues had been to promote excellence in recreational cricket – he said that what he heard in the meeting had been most interesting and instructive, but that he had heard nothing about excellence. He was quite right, and it was a highly perceptive and thought-provoking first contribution. I don’t want to appear smug or self-satisfied, but that is exactly why we have launched our Club of the Year competition and why we are agreeing Ground and Facilities Standards that all our clubs must aim for. That does not fully satisfy his point, but it is a good start. 
 
Thornes players celebrate the final act of their 2018 championship season Finally this week, something I have said before, and will say again. I think our league is very fortunate to have such a strong committee, that brings together so many different strengths, experiences and ideas. Some have specific roles, others freely contribute their knowledge and experience, and it is enormously reassuring to me as chairman to be able to call on their input and support. 
 
On Saturday, I shall pop down to Elsecar, to watch part of the home club’s Premier League debut. It is something they have had to wait for, and work hard for, and I hope that their stay with us will be a long one. 
 
Till next week, 
 
Roger 
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