THE Ribblesdale Cricket League has ceased to exist, ending 130 years of distinguished history.

Its 16 clubs, including the Craven trio of Settle, Earby and Barnoldswick, will merger with the Bolton League in 2023 to form the new North West Cricket League.

Next season all NWCL first teams will play each other once in a single Senior League of 24 clubs, leading to a ranked Premiership and Championship in 2024, with promotion and relegation in further years.

In 2023 the Ribblesdale second teams will carry on as before, but with their league renamed Junior Division North. The following year the North and South (Bolton) divisions will combine 31 clubs to emerge as new Divisions One, Two and Three, depending on final 2023 positions. Current third teams will be largely unaffected.

As for knock-out competitions, all first teams will play for the Hamer Cup, while second teams will firstly enter the Ramsbottom Cup, and if eliminated in the first round will have another chance of a trophy by competing for the Lawrenson Cup.

The T20 competition (Birtwistle Cup) will see the NWCL North and South divisions continue to compete separately, with the winners of each region meeting in the grand final.

The overall aim of the restructuring is to improve the quality of cricket and make matches more competitive with teams playing against their equals. Some Ribblesdale first team matches were finishing before four o’clock last season, and one second team could not manage a single win in fifteen games.

The three Craven clubs could face extra travel, with the new league stretching 60 miles from Settle in the north to Atherton in the south. Bolton chairman John Hutchinson said that the NWCL was very aware of the travel implications, so the hope is that sympathetic arrangements can be made. Competition details are on with fixtures expected before Christmas.