PLAYERS from the batting side may have to take stints at square-leg this season due to an acute shortage of umpires in the All Rounder Cricket Bradford Premier League.

The league’s chief executive officer Mark Heald, addressing a special meeting of clubs at Cleckheaton Sports Club this week, said: “The Umpires’ Association have worked tirelessly over the winter on recruitment.

“We need 96 umpires to fully staff matches, but we only have between 60 and 70 registered umpires at the moment and not all of these are available every week.

“As a minimum, all first XI games will have two panel umpires (a total of 48) and Premier and Championship One second-team matches will have one panel umpire (12), with the hosts required to provide a club umpire.

“Championship Two and Conference second XI matches will require two club umpires – one from each club – but when we approach the main holiday period we will review availability each week and advise as necessary.

“If we have a surplus of panel umpires on any given week, these will be allocated to appropriate games.

“In those circumstances, clubs will be notified that two panel umpires are allocated to a second-team game and therefore clubs will not need to provide a club umpire on that date.

“If there is only one club umpire at a game, then players are to be used at square leg only, ideally for no more than five overs per person, but then last thing this management board wants is for players to have to do the umpiring”

One ray of sunlight in what is a generally bleak outlook was that the names of 20 club umpires had been given to league secretary Chris Leathley before the meeting, and he said: “Of those, only four had requested to do square leg all the time, so it is not all doom and gloom.”

Clubs were asked, if they had not already done so, to give Leathley the names and contact details of club umpires by next Thursday as the league programme starts a week tomorrow.

Heald then gave details of when tomorrow’s postponed matches will be restaged.

He said: “Championship Two first and second-team games will be played on Sunday, July 22; Conference first and second-team games on Sunday, July 29; Championship One first and second-team games on Sunday, August 12, and Premier Division first and second-team games on Sunday, August 19.”

Heald added that club umpires would have the same powers as panel umpires when it came to dealing with on-field disciplinary issues.