Whilst the cricket season may be over once more, autumn has always been my second favourite time of year. The photo above, which I took whilst out for my morning walk last Monday is a good example of why. I love these late sunny days, with rich colours, that seem to cling to the last vestiges of summer before the winter sets in.  
Having done Rovers' end-of-season stats last Tuesday, I have been able to turn my attentions to final preparations for our AGM next week. We have a full agenda with the usual reports, followed by the financial accounts, then the largest item on the agenda, changes to constitution and rules. 
 
We set up the league from a fresh start in 2015 and, by and large, I think we made a very good job of our initial constitution and rules. But, with the experience of the first four years, I thought it was time to have a proper review and ensure that they were fit for purpose. I found that quite a few issues covered in the constitution were really more administrative matters, as were some of the league championship rules. So I have thinned out both of the latter and set up a new section entitled 'League administrative rules' that can be added to and amended by the elected committee. Any changes to the constitution have to be voted on by the clubs and then ratified by the Premier Leagues Management Board, and changes to league championship rules will remain, as now, subject to being passed by a majority vote of clubs at the AGM.  
 
The main changes we are proposing to the constitution are; firstly, giving the clubs the power to propose on the posts of chairman and secretary - hitherto these posts have been appointments of the Management Board, which was a sensible move when we started out, but I believe that now we are established, the clubs should have a say. The posts would remain subject to ratification by the Management Board. Secondly, we are proposing to increase the size of the committee by two, which will allow the new Participation Manager to be a committee post, as well as the under 19 competition organiser. 
 
In terms of the administrative rules, the two main new proposals are to strengthen guidance on grounds and facilites, including around ground conditions in inclement weather, and to allow clubs to register two overseas players, only one of whom may play in any YSPL game. The idea of this is to allow clubs greater flexibility to play either of their overseas players in YSPL games, for example, where one overseas player returns home early, or for reasons connected with form or injury. 
 
The League championship rules are largely unchanged - as one captain put it at the mid-season meeting, 'it ain't broken, so don't fix it!' There are, however, proposals for a revamped t20 competition that will offer each club a guaranteed (weather permitting!) six games, and a second XI competition for 2021 and beyond. 
 
As always, I have written my report on the season and, because I am conscious that not everyone will see, or want to see, the AGM documents, I reproduce it in full below. 
 
The return to a ‘normal British summer’ in 2019 caused players and officials some problems, but, overall, it was another excellent season of progress for our League. 
 
On the playing side, our league is more competitive than ever. I congratulate new champions in Doncaster Town CC – an all the more remarkable success taking into account their relegation three years earlier; we provided the winners, and both finalists, in the Viking Cricket Cup – and we congratulate winners Wakefield Thornes CC, and Whitley Hall CC, on that achievement; our t20 champions, Sheffield Collegiate, reached the last four of the National competition – and they were a credit to both themselves and our League; our promoted clubs, Elsecar CC and Tickhill CC, acquitted themselves well, comfortably consolidating their status in our league; and our former colleagues at Appleby Frodingham CC secured promotion back to our league at the first attempt. 
 
Next season, in addition to welcoming back Appleby Frodingham CC, Cawthorne CC will also be joining our league – a progressive club with a very picturesque ground and good people. I wish both clubs well for 2020. 
 
But where there are winners, there are always losers. I am really sorry to be saying goodbye for now to Aston Hall CC and Cleethorpes CC. They are both good clubs with excellent facilities, and they will be sadly missed. I wish them both all the very best in their attempts to rejoin us in 2021. 
 
Off the field, our new website, albeit that it was not delivered as quickly as we would have liked, has attracted a lot of praise and will be of great long term benefit to us. Publicity is vital for a Premier League, and I thank all those who have played their part in this, in particular our scorers, whose efforts have enabled us to maintain an almost 100% presence on Live Scores. We must build on what we have done in terms of publicity this season, and ensure that our league is as attractive as possible to potential sponsors. 
 
I must make a special mention of Hallam CC, who in many ways endured a very difficult 2019. But they ended the season on a much more positive note, with a remarkable run of form to escape what had looked almost certain relegation, and good news for their pavilion project at Crimicar. I believe that there is a lot of potential at the ground that, with the support of ECB, will make the club an even greater asset to our league. 
 
For the future, I believe that our priority must be to continue to work to drive up ground and facilities standards at our grounds – we are very proud of our league and its clubs, and want to ensure that all our grounds reflect our status as a Premier League. Our aim must always be to make our league as good as it can possibly be in every way. 
 
We need in the future to continue to review the format of our competitions to ensure that they are what players want. The feedback from players last season on our championship was ‘it ain’t broken, so don’t fix it’ – which we have taken on board. We have proposals to improve our t20 competition, giving players more games and spreading them out over the season; and we will continue to work with the YCB on to improve the existing under 19s competition. Please continue to share your comments and suggestions for improvement with me. 
 
The wet summer brought different issues for groundsmen, players and officials alike. We have identified areas where we think we need to strengthen our rules in respect of weather issues, and have worked with the umpires’ association on these. 
 
For a number of reasons, we were unable to repeat our representative team successes of 2018. But we will consider closely the reasons, and look at the scheduling of future games to make them as successful as possible. 
 
Without going into detail in this report, another area of concern that has been highlighted is the way that hardworking volunteer officials have been treated by others – mainly outside our league. This issue has cost us a very valuable committee member; and other members of our committee, in particular our secretary and myself, have suffered similarly. It is totally unacceptable, and our game can only be the loser if officials, quite understandably, say, ‘I don’t have to put up with this – I’ve had enough.’ Volunteers workers must be respected and valued, and I think that the conduct of our clubs and players has been exemplary in this regard. 
 
At the end of the season we said goodbye to two stalwart workers for our league in Kevin Motley and Ray Knowles. Kevin is acknowledged as one of the best scorers in the country and Barnsley have been lucky to have had his services for as long as I can remember, whilst his contribution to our league is exemplified, but by no means restricted to our end-of-season statistical compendium in his name. Ray has looked after disciplinary and safeguarding issues for the League since our inception, and his knowledge and wisdom will be missed not only in these fields but at committee in general. We thank them, wish them well, and hope to see them both in the future - Ray will, I am pleased to say, continue as a highly-respected member of our umpires panel. 
 
Finally, I want to record my thanks, as always, to our committee, whose support, experience and ideas are invaluable to our league; to our sponsors, 4 Probate & Wills, Solly Sports and Viking Cricket for their support; to our umpires panel, which I believe is first class; and to everyone connected with our league for helping to make us what we are. Most importantly though, I thank my wife, Kirsty, not only for her proof-reading, photography and ever-helpful advice (often to moderate my instinctive reactions) but in particular for cheerfully putting up with the fact that cricket more or less takes over my life from March to October! 
 
On the day immediately after the AGM, Thursday 17 October, I shall be at the Steel City Beer Festival at Kelham Island. I have never managed to get to this festival before, but I am determined this time! Sheffield, and South Yorkshire in general, is the home to so many great beers nowadays. I shall be there in the afternoon/early evening, and it would be great to see some familiar faces.  
 
Then, we have our annual presentation dinner to look forward to. Alex Fletcher and Steve Ward are working hard to make this a memorable night, and we have engaged a top speaker in the former Glamorgan and England all-rounder Robert Croft. I have not heard Robert speak before, but his reputation precedes him, and I very much look forward to the night. It is on Friday 8th November at Shaw Lane Sports Club, Barnsley. Tickets are £30 and can be obtained from our secretary, Steve Ward - 07919 241148 or secretary@yspl.co.uk. I know that he is going away for a few days now, but if you leave him a message, he will get back to you next week.  
 
I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on the night! 
 
Till next time, when I shall report back on the AGM - and the Beer Festival! 
 
Roger 
 
 
 
 
 
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