A fair play plea for Division 5 teams

Updated: May 21

Veterans League

Can I lodge a plea (or maybe it is a rant) on behalf of teams in Division 5 of the Veterans 10-Man League for some sanity to be introduced into the fixture programme. I cannot speak on behalf of all the teams, although I suspect and know that some have the same views, but on behalf of my own club, Kirkheaton Con, I need to highlight the shabby treatment they have been subjected to in this year's fixture programme.

We are now moving into the second half of May and 7 Tuesdays have passed since the start of the Veterans League season. In those 7 weeks the Kirkheaton Con 'B' team have played just 3 matches. The club's 'A' team has played 7 league games over the same period. Two teams in Division 5 are stood idle every week of the season. This is not bowling as we know it.

It gets worse. In July, the peak bowling month, the Kirkheaton Con 'B' side has only one league fixture during the whole month and that is away at Hemplow on the 26th. How can that ever be seen as a properly fair situation? The League only exists to provide bowling activity for the over-60s which they are clearly failing to do once again this year. Eight Tuesdays in the 2022 season without a league fixture is a preposterous situation and so easily avoidable.

Alright the League have put two rounds of the Sub-Team KO on Tuesdays to take up some of the slack but that only provides one more match for many especially the Division 5 teams that are less likely to get past the first round anyhow.

This has all come about because of the team imbalance that the League seems to believe is acceptable. The season started with 14 teams in the top two divisions and only 10 teams in Division 5. This is not a one-off because the same number of teams were in place last season as well but clubs were so grateful to be playing at all after the pandemic that no fuss was created. Things have changed and if the League thinks it can continue to be biased against clubs that have less capable bowlers, but enjoy their matches just as much as any top team, then they need to think again.

There is no excuse for extending a blatantly biased set-up in favour of the top teams for a third season. Four of the clubs with teams in Divisions 1 and 2 also have 'B' teams in Division 5 and must be embarrassed at this inequality that continues to exist depriving their 'B' side club mates of bowling matches. Hopefully some of the other teams are equally embarrassed by this shabby treatment of the Division 5 teams.

All teams in the League pay the same entry fee. That fee gives the top teams 26 league matches whilst Division 5 teams get only 18 matches in their restricted season. Nobody wants to see extra matches added to the Division 5 programme which involves playing some of the teams a third or fourth time. That will never produce a proper and fair league table. That is what the League did this year but the outcry from the clubs soon put a stop to that.

In 2014 the League had 14 teams in Divisions 1 to 4 and only 7 teams in Division 5. That had continued for several seasons until the teams threatened to go elsewhere and the League is in danger of sleepwalking back into an identical setup. Nothing to be proud of and no lessons learnt.

The late withdrawal of Crosland Moor from the League this season reduced Division 1 to 13 teams. What is going to happen next season? Will the League promote 3 teams from Division 2 or will they only relegate one team from the top division. I think that teams involved in the relegation and promotion issues in Divisions 1 and 2 will be asking the same question. Either way they risk perpetuating the biased treatment of lower based teams. It presents an opportunity to address the problem if they are big enough to stand up and do it?

The League could be more helpful in issuing a statement on its intent for the 2023 season. They can only make decisions based on an assumption that the same number of teams will be in the league next season. Any change in numbers will mean a rethink on that but at least teams in all divisions will know the intent regarding promotion and relegation matters and the likely structure of divisions for 2023.

The solution is easy. Assuming the team numbers remain at this season's level of 61 teams then that can most fairly be restructured with 13 teams in Divisions 1 and then 12 teams in each of the other four divisions. It's fair, provides minimum disruption and can easily be accommodated by an end of season restructuring. That would be similar to what happened at the end of the 2017 season when four teams were relegated from Division 2 to divide the teams more equally between the divisions. It's not rocket science. It upset some affected teams but it sorted out all the inequalities and restored fair play to teams in the League. After that change the League went on to attract a record number of teams to the League and avoided the mass transfer of teams that the Division 5 teams were threatening at that time.

The same applies to the Division 5 teams this time around. If the League is not prepared to make a statement about the intent for the 2023 season and then wait until the February AGM to announce the structure of the divisions then they should prepare themselves for a backlash of late team withdrawals from the league.

When does a Plea become a Threat? Good question. Only the clubs can answer that. It shouldn't be seen as a threat at present but more like inside information on the likely outcome of a second season failure to address this imbalance. An early warning system if you like. But if they are listening to clubs then it shouldn't be a surprise to them anyhow.

Division 5 teams expect better treatment in the future. Failure to address this imbalance will result in at least one Division 5 team reviewing its position and they are already in contact with other Leagues that can offer a more complete bowling season. They may not be the only ones to take matters into their own hands unless the League begins to show some leadership and offer guidance on this important matter.

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