Historic league merger on the agenda

Sign of things to come? Leyland v Longridge in cup competition on Sunday
Sign of things to come? Leyland v Longridge in cup competition on Sunday
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The landscape of club cricket in Lancashire is set to change with a potential merger of the Northern Premier League and the Palace Shield moving a huge step closer.

Proposals over a tie-up of the two competitions have gone back to the clubs for urgent discussion.

A recent meeting at the BAC/EE Club in Preston convened to thrash out various proposals.

Under the radical plan, the two leagues would be brought together, with Northern League first teams integrated with Palace Shield premier division sides.

This would form top two divisions with a system of promotion and relegation.

Second teams from the Northern League would be embedded into the Palace Shield structure.

The feeling at the meeting was that some Palace Shield teams could hold their own in the NPL.

A statement issued to all the clubs involved after the meeting said: “Both leagues, for various reasons, felt that they needed each other, not least to stop the drain of outstanding young players being advised to migrate to the Liverpool Competition to further their careers.

“It was felt that if there was a successful arrangement involving promotion/relegation the status of a premier league might stem this flow.”

The statement added optimistically: “The meeting was very positive with a great will on both sides to achieve a union.”

Such is the mood for change that it is thought an emergency meeting could be easily arranged.

Bobby Denning, managing director of the Lancashire Cricket Board, said he welcomed the talks.

“There have been various proposals on the table and there has been a willingness by both leagues to start talking about what their options could be.

“It is very early days, but the fact that the clubs are talking does have the support of the LCB.”

One potential stumbling-block is the status of Cumbrian clubs like Barrow and Penrith, but a place could be found for them in any new structure, though their second teams would probably miss out.

The NPL has been in existence for more than 60 years, while the history of the Palace Shield stretches back well over a century.

No time-frame for the start of the proposed new combined league has yet been determined.