It's been an ongoing battle for the North West umpiring fraternity to try and increase dwindling numbers in recent years. This has led them to propose a bonus points scheme to try and entice clubs into supplying more candidates.

"Despite significant efforts in recent times to attract new umpires, we currently do not have sufficient umpires to cater for all ‘Senior’ cricket matches throughout the season," said a spokesperson for the Umpires body.

"We are looking to the clubs for support to assist in identifying, supporting and supplying enough umpires to meet the needs of our league and cup cricket programmes."

They want each of the fifteen clubs playing ‘Senior’ cricket in the NWCU is to provide an umpire in the 2023 season who has completed the Stage 2 umpiring training course within the last 3 years.

This umpire is to stand in a minimum of four Saturday ‘senior’ cricket matches during the 2023 season. Failure to meet this minimum quota will result in a points deduction for that club at the beginning of the 2024 season. There will be a 5 points deduction for each match less than the minimum quota of four matches.

For clubs that provide an umpire in the 2023 season who has completed the Stage 2 umpiring training course within the last 3 years and who stands in more than four Saturday ‘senior’ cricket matches during the 2023 season, bonus points will be added to that club for the start of the 2024 season. There will be 5 bonus points added for each match over the minimum quota of four outlined above with a maximum of 20 bonus points available to the club.

To be clear, existing umpires that have been umpiring more than 3 years and have completed the relevant umpire training courses, will not count towards this new requirement.

There was a small improvement in 2022 as 26 umpires stood throughout the season as opposed to 23 in 2021, albeit with an increasedd workload of 16 average appointments per umpire in 2022 as opposed to 12 in 2021.

15 umpires stood in 15 matches or more during the season accounting for a total of 346 appointments (82%), and 3 new umpires stood in 2022 – Ted Britton, Julian Fowler, Stephen McColgan.

However, this year two, or possibly three, of the umpires that stood in 15 plus matches last year will not be umpiring.

"We are heading towards a crisis and it is not sustainable.

"It is now up to the clubs to help the NWCU&SA as over 50% of the fifteen senior clubs do not currently provide umpires. 

"Our proposal is an attempt to balance this deficit otherwise we will not be able to provide the minimum fourteen umpires for 'Senior' cricket every Saturday this season. If this is the case, preference for umpires will be given to clubs who provide them.

"We are currently hosting a Stage 1 course and there are ten participants. There is also a Stage 2 course being held on the 25th March. Anyone looking to umpire must have completed both stages and must have Access NI clearance as well as insurance (ECB ACO)."

The clubs are due to have a meeting this week to discuss the proposal with the North West Cricket Union.