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Drop threat to Birmingham League's Shropshire trio

Three clubs are facing possible relegation from the Birmingham League for failing to run enough junior teams.

2022 / BDPCL / Div 2 / Himley CC v Bridgnorth.
2022 / BDPCL / Div 2 / Himley CC v Bridgnorth.

Bridgnorth, Shifnal and Worfield are under scrutiny after a league audit found they operated joint teams at under-15s level this year.

The Birmingham League board believe this to be in breach of accreditation requirements and have contacted the ECB for further guidance.

A league statement read: “If that guidance is in line with BDPCL (Birmingham League) thinking, the clubs who are found to be non-compliant will be subject to Rule 3.4 which states: ‘Member clubs must comply with the criteria prescribed in the Club Accreditation Document, a copy of which is circulated prior to the season. Failure to comply with the criteria may result in relegation or other penalty’.”

The audit was prompted by a controversial conclusion to the season which saw Shropshire League champions Ludlow and Worcestershire League champions Stourport barred from the County League promotion play-offs because their junior set-ups did not meet the required standard.

Old Hill and Whitchurch, runners-up in the respective county leagues, competed in the play-offs instead though neither was able to win promotion. ECB regulations state clubs needed to run at least three teams at junior level to be eligible for promotion, with Birmingham League rules requiring them to run at least one team at U10 or U11 level, one at U12 or U13 and another at U14 or U15. The criteria were relaxed in 2020 and 2021 due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic but the league insists clubs were notified they would be re-introduced this year.

Though Ludlow did run teams at U11 and U13, their third junior team was an U11 B side, which played just three fixtures. This was deemed unsatisfactory by league bosses.

In an open letter, the club hit out at the league for a “lack of understanding and flexibility”, claiming this season was the first in 15 years they had not fielded an U15s side, due to a lack of numbers.

Ludlow believe the current guidelines leave rural clubs in particular at a disadvantage.

Their letter read: “The league position appears to be they are adhering to ECB guidance and their rules have been in place for some time.

“That may be so, but if it really is the case, then we feel the rules as well as any guidance need looking at.

“The frustration is even greater knowing there are already teams in the Birmingham League who do not meet the exact criteria we are being judged upon.”

The focus now is on those clubs. In a statement, the league claimed to be unaware Worfield and Bridgnorth had been running joint junior teams until earlier this summer and were not notified of the change by the clubs or the Shropshire League. A more recent audit revealed Shifnal ran a joint under-15s team with Albrighton.

Bridgnorth, Worfield and Shifnal are currently due to play in Division Two of the Birmingham League next season, following the latter’s relegation from Division One. The County League play-offs concluded last weekend with Tamworth and Coventry & North Warwickshire winning promotion in a nail-biting finish.

While Warwickshire champions Coventry claimed promotion with a 39-run win over Whitchurch, South Staffordshire League winners Tamworth – who visited Old Hill needing just six points to go up – were wobbling on 153-8, chasing 252, before Ben Maddox’s unbeaten 52 helped steer them to 200 and the final bonus point required.

Tamworth’s promotion means only two clubs will be relegated from the South Staffs Premier Division. Hammerwich had been left with an anxious wait to discover their fate after finishing 10th in the table but now stay in the Premier Division.

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