As we approach the end of the year, it is appropriate, as well as looking forward, to reflect on the year that has almost passed. Whilst undoubtedly as challenging a year as most of us have experienced, there were in 2020 some real positives for us to build on. 
 
That we could go from a suggestion made at a meeting in March this year, to completing a merger between the Yorkshire South Premier League and the South Yorkshire Senior Cricket League in less than nine months, is nothing short of remarkable. We can now move forward from a position of strength, with 61 clubs and 125 teams playing across the full spectrum of competitive recreational cricket. 
 
We should also be proud of the way that our clubs responded so well to the challenge of playing cricket with an element of competition in a Covid-safe environment, with no significant issues arising. Moreover, given our concerns about the long-term effect of the restrictions on clubs, it is also pleasing that at the time of writing, none of our teams have been lost, and indeed two clubs, Rockingham and Upper Haugh, intend to play additional teams in the League next season. 
 
Looking to the future, the ECB, in addition to their support for our new structure, have confirmed that the funding allocated to the League in 2021 will be significantly more than would have been allocated to the YSPL as a ‘stand alone’ league. The exact amount of the funding is still to be confirmed, and a percentage will undoubtedly be performance-related, but the picture overall is a lot better than had been anticipated. 
 
In respect of performance targets, the number one ECB priority is participation – particularly in respect of womens’ and girls’ cricket, and junior cricket. Some of our clubs have already made huge strides in these areas, and as well as helping increase participation in the game, have found that thriving womens’ and girls’ sections, and junior sections, have provided real benefits for our clubs. In the YCSPL, we have a Participation Manager at Executive Board level, Liz Lazenby, and her role is to support clubs towards setting up and expanding all areas of participation by advising them of the help available and signposting them to appropriate sources. Liz can be contacted at participation.manager@ycspl.co.uk. 
 
Also on the issue of participation, we want our league to be one in which people from all backgrounds feel comfortable both playing and volunteering in. To support this aspiration, we have advertised for individuals to form a Diversity and Inclusion Group panel, the chair of which will sit on the Executive Board. I am delighted to say that we have received several positive expressions of interest in joining the panel from good candidates from a variety of backgrounds and playing levels. Once the panel is in place we will make a more formal announcement, and I look forward to working with this hugely important group in the New Year. 
 
We have had good news in the last week on the sponsorship front. Viking Cricket have confirmed that they will continue the sponsorship of the Yorkshire Leagues Knock-Out Cup, the Viking Cup, joint with Yorkshire League North, and insurance brokers Marshall Wooldridge, who specialise in insurance for sports clubs, have agreed to sponsor the Whitworth Cup. Marshall Wooldridge will also be contacting clubs to offer a review of their current insurance cover and discuss what they can offer at competitive rates. We are now looking for sponsors for the divisions and other cup competitions in our league, hoping to give opportunity in that way to a range of sponsors to become involved with the League. We seek the help of our clubs in securing more sponsorship, on the basis that if a club is able to introduce us to a company who takes the opportunity to sponsor a competition, we will look to positively benefit the club that made the introduction. 
 
One of the issues that was raised in the player survey that we conducted whilst planning for our new league was communication. I do not see this Christmas message as a ‘one off’ – it is my intention to keep those involved with our league informed on what is happening on a regular basis, so I intend to produce a monthly chairman’s update letter during the course of the coming year. Our website is also a vital part of our communication. Our website administrator is currently working on our club directory, and will be very pleased to receive information about clubs that can be included – website.administrator@ycspl.co.uk. 
 
Finally, in these most extraordinary and difficult times, on behalf of the League Executive Board and all our officials, I wish everyone connected with our League a safe and happy Christmas, and fervently hope for a return to something approaching normality during 2021. 
 
Yours in sport 
 
Matt Summerhill 
League chairman 
chairman@ycspl.co.uk 
23 December 2020 
 
 
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