NCU Registrations - All Pain No Gain?

31 January 2007

A lifetime North Down member and an Honorary Life Member of the Northern Cricket Union, Clarence Hiles concedes...

NCU Registrations - All Pain No Gain?

...there were faults in both camps on the controversial registrations issue and calls for a better system going forward...

Just when we all thought we’d heard the last of ‘Connellgate’ everything will soon be back in the melting pot as NCU clubs gather information on new players in preparation for the 2007 season.

Much has been said and written on North Down’s registration faux pas, a sorry debacle that brought no credit on an NCU administration that accepted it, upheld it, rejected it, and then punished the club for doing it in the first place! It hardly mattered whether it was Waringstown or East Belfast that made the appeal, given that the facts were laid bare on the table and hands held up that a genuine mistake had been made. Certainly the Villagers had most to gain, and their zeal for ‘natural justice’ knew no bounds, but it seems the facts were fairly straightforward, and although some very public caustic comments from both camps did nothing to improve already strained relations, most observers saw it as handbag stuff.

Peter ConnellThe inevitable decisions were just as straightforward, and while my fellow Comber men have every right to claim North Down won the league title on the pitch, Waringstown won it in the committee room and that’s what the record books will show in years to come. Everyone outside both camps will make up their own minds whether it matters or not, and plenty of people had their say, but from a broader perspective, once again another sorry debacle made local cricket, and in particular the NCU administration, look very tardy. And all this on the back of similar registration debacle the previous year when Derriaghy was relegated for playing an ineligible player.

North Down paid the ultimate price and lost their senior league title and their Twenty/20 Trophy, but as the dark nights set in last Autumn, surprisingly there were no resignations, no public apologies, and amazingly, no proposed changes to the rules!

Isn’t this a recipe for another disaster?

Complicated registration rules are in place to stop clubs exploiting the rules that have been democratically decided at annual general meetings and the heavy responsibility for administering those same rules lies jointly at the doors of both club and union officials. The ‘suits’ don’t get it right all the time but they sure get plenty of stick when the wheels come off! But 99% of the time these guys do a great job despite attempts by a small bunch of nobodies to decry their voluntary unpaid services to the sport they love. Of course they make mistakes, and of course nobody is compelled to do the job, but they show a lot of character in accepting the criticism and getting on with the job for the overall betterment of cricket, not the selfish interest of one particular club. And yes it would have been nice if someone from the union had stood up and publicly apologized for the union’s mistake, but sadly in the selfish world of winner-take-all modern sport, there is little room for discretion, sportsmanship, and at times common sense. Everything has to be black or white, there are only winners and losers, and more often than not everyone is a loser. Certainly when lawyers enter the committee room, sport has to take a back seat to inflated egos, precedents, and ‘legal opinion’ almost as if the words were set in tablets of stone by Moses!

I’m sure Waringstown would have preferred to have beaten North Down on the field to win the title as their ‘victory’ will always be tarnished by a proviso that it was a committee decision, albeit a correct ruling.

Clubs and officials will certainly sharpen their pencils on the back of Derriaghy and North Down’s recent experiences, but surely there must be a better way of dealing with registration challenges than these end-of-the-season fiascos?

It may sound simplistic, but couldn’t the NCU set a date for accepting registrations and then allow ten days for clubs to challenge any particular registration, after which all bets are on? The same principle could apply during a season. Indeed maybe the Belfast Newsletter could publish the overseas registrants and place them on public record for scrutiny and investigation long before the end of the season when so much is at stake.

After all it doesn’t have to be ‘all pain no gain.’   

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