League 'Chairman' criticises his own league
Friday 14th June 2019

Following his abuse of an umpire in 2017, the most hated Chairman the Liverpool and District Cricket Competition has ever had, and whose sole intention seems to be to spread his poison and destroy the league, has gone to the Liverpool Echo and criticised the league. If, as he claims, standards have dropped, it's only been during his tenure.

The diatribe contains so many inaccuracies that he is once again displaying his ignorance in that he doesn't know the first thing about the Liverpool Competition. Like some many wannabees these days, he should check the facts before he opens his mouth.

Also one supposes that 'his lifetime in cricket' includes the County match he claims to have played for Lancashire and yet the County has no record of a player of his name having ever played for them in any category of match.

He states that "this year, for the first time ever, we're finding clubs unable to field teams at 2nd XI level. We have had examples of some clubs going with seven, eight, nine men, which is unheard of."

This is totally incorrect. In the eighties, when Liverpool and Everton were in FA Cup Finals, we had teams unable to field a 2nd XI on the day.

On 10th September 2011, Parkfield Liscard took seven players to Burscough for a 2nd XI Second Division match. Parkfield tried to hide the fact to avoid paying a £40.00 fine by adding names to the scorecard on play-cricket.com after Burscough had listed the genuine scorecard. The League Secretary was advised at the time and he chose to back Parkfield's story that they had fielded eleven players.

Williams fails to add that his own club, Rainford, is one that fails to fulfil fixtures.

For a person who is on record in the past as saying he wants 'time' cricket abolished, he cannot be allowed to ruin a league that has existed for over 100 years. As one respected person in the Liverpool Competition said "The man's an idiot. Run a league? He couldn't run a bath. If he is allowed to continue, he'll run us into the ground and we won't have any Liverpool Competition at all."

It's one thing to have an idea and another to pass it off as a general consensus. By doing that, if it fails, you don't publicly have egg on your face. It's an old story with the Liverpool Competition committee.

The Committee to which he refers is a 'Gang of Three', of which he is one. The other so called Committee Members are just nodding dogs.

The comment about 'attracting players from elsewhere'. Clubs are paying players from out of the area to come and play for them. It's not a fact that a player wants to play for your club, it's that if enough money is dangled as a carrot, a player will go anywhere.

"Who wants to play Mickey Mouse T20 cricket on a Saturday afternoon? You work all week so you want to spend the whole of Saturday afternoon and early evening with your friends playing a proper game of time cricket with a few beers in the pavilion afterwards."

If numbers are dropping, it's because people just want to play cricket for enjoyment. They don't want to be subjected to draconian rules where you get suspended for four matches for sneezing or fined for shouting 'howzat'.

The late Colin Thompson's son, John, sums things up when he says about his father, "He loved the old school Comp, especially before drink driving became frowned upon. He wasn't a big fan of the expansion and just loved playing, no matter what level it was at."

John continued: "The proper old Comp, no overseas, no need for a full time admin assistant to avoid being fined off the planet, just 22 guys playing hard, honest cricket once or twice a year, before getting absolutely slaughtered after the game, together."

These comments were sent in a private text but it is hoped that John does not object to them being aired in public as they illustrate the feelings of so many people today.

The newspaper article reads:

Change in the air as Liverpool Gin Liverpool Competition seeks to tackle player shortage

Chairman John Williams says nothing is off the table - including a change of format in the lower divisions

It's been the sort of week for Merseyside's cricketers to indulge in some imaginative, blue skies thinking – such as "imagine if there were blue skies".

But while the weather may present an immediate problem for Liverpool Gin Liverpool Competition clubs, league chairman John Williams has an eye on solving a more long term issue – the decline in participation levels.

He and the committee are going to be consulting clubs in September about possible changes - and nothing is off the table.

"Clubs are having difficulty with playing numbers," he said. "The levels of participation in the game are exercising the committee as well as the day to day running.

"We are concerned with the problems clubs are having in fielding teams at 3rd XI – and sadly, this year, for the first time ever, we’re finding clubs are unable to field teams at 2nd XI level.

"We have had examples of some clubs going with seven, eight, nine men, which is unheard of. We take our hat off to them for getting the game on, but it is a real issue."

Some initiatives have already proved popular with clubs. For example, the dual registration scheme – with the Southport and District League last year, and now between Competition clubs below 1st XI level – has allowed those with surplus players to help out those who are struggling.

Now Williams, in his eighth year in the role, thinks it’s time to be braver. 

"Personally, I think we need to bite the bullet," he said. "These are good initiatives and the clubs have been very supportive but I really think we need to look at things further.

"Not the structure of the league – the clubs are very happy with that – but we need to look at the format of the games."

This is, safe to say, a big deal. Although the Southport League switched to a 45 over format at the beginning of 2017, timed cricket remains sacrosanct to many, and Williams acknowledges it's one of the reasons for the Competition’s status.

But while he doesn’t foresee any change to the format at 1st XI level, he reckons change might be needed in the lower divisions to make the game more accessible to potential players.

A limited overs format would shorten the time spent playing – for recreational players down the pyramid juggling family, work and other commitments, it could be a deal breaker.

"We know there are many different views on this," Williams said.

"Firstly, we’re looking at ways in which we can shorten the game at the lower reaches of our structure – none of us has found any evidence from clubs that they want 1st XI timed cricket to change, and on a personal level I don't want that to change.

"It encourages proper cricket and it's applauded by the players.

"I think it's one of the reasons the Comp attracts players from elsewhere – and better players attract better players.

"So we've no intention of changing that.

"But for 2nd and 3rd XIs, we've got to look at ways to make the game more attractive.

"So we're looking at ways to shorten the length of time spent playing.

"Automatically you think of T20 – I personally wouldn't want to just introduce T20 cricket on a Saturday per se, but we might make that an offer for some 3rd XIs who’d prefer play in a T20 league, and there may be some clubs who prefer to play the timed games."

Ultimately, Williams believes the way forward is to offer a "menu of cricket" – ECB speak for "different strokes for different folks".

“We've got over 1,400 people playing every weekend," he added. "It's big enough to have a menu that will fit everyone’s social, personal and ability requirements." 

He believes it's essential that the youngsters attracted to the game by the ECB's All Stars programme – "in my lifetime in cricket, the best initiative clubs have ever had" – are given the chance to play as they grow older.

That's another reason for potentially reducing the amount of time taken up by senior games, to make room for the kids.

He added: "We as a league have got to consider all this.

"So what we're going to do is consider some offers which we’ll be making to our clubs at the AGM in January – but before we do that, we'll have a series of consultations starting as soon as the season finishes in September.

"We don’t know what the outcome of all this will be. But we cannot sit back and do nothing and watch the clubs struggling to put teams out.

"And we can’t rely on other people; as a league, we've got a responsibility to get more people enjoying the game."

(first published in the Liverpool Echo)