I don’t want to be branded a scaremonger but these are very worrying times for Jewish sport. First of all, a third MSFL side has bitten the dust. Following in the footsteps of South Manx B and North West Neasden C, AC Cricklewood are the first single-team club to fold this season. That leaves the MSFL down to 52 teams, 25 of which are made up of multi-team clubs.
League chairman David Wolff was left unimpressed. “It’s disappointing when teams have to pull out so early in the season,” he told me. “I found Cricklewood’s excuse for withdrawing poor.”
Unlike Manx and Neasden who were struggling for players, they claimed they had no-one to run it. Wolff said: “It’s a pretty feeble excuse.”
I asked him for his thoughts on the fact that almost half of the league is made up by multi-team clubs. He replied: “Multiple teams causes multiple problems.”
As joint-manager of North London Raiders A, I believe that the time is right to restrict clubs to no more than two teams to help ensure the long-term future of the league. Hendon United currently have four teams, while London Maccabi Lions and Redbridge Jewish Care have three. Good luck to them for having so much pulling power but what is the point of one club having so many members while other teams are struggling to find 11?
And then there is the other issue of players playing up or down. I’ve been on both sides of the fence where teams use the rules to their benefit, playing their best players in lower divisions, often to the detriment of the league. And it irritates me when, if one team’s match is postponed at the last minute, the manager of a B or C team cherry-picks one of the star names, meaning that someone originally selected is forced to sit out.
On Monday night, I attended the Maccabi Cricket GB AGM. The proposal of a Club of Excellence, suggested by Michael Ziff, received a frosty reaction. Representatives from London Maccabi Vale were open to the idea but the likes of Belmont & Edgware and Southgate were not so keen.
The standard of Maccabi League cricket has been on the decline for several years now, through no fault of MSCL chairman Richard Mitchell. The league structure could collapse if MAL decide to enter the Middlesex Sunday League. They have bucked the trend and attracted a talented and young crop of players, with some experienced heads pulling the strings behind the scenes.
Not everyone likes change but I believe that the one-club idea could be a real eye-opener. It would help to improve the overall standard of Jewish cricket, with everyone able to find their level under one umbrella.
Most teams have proud histories. I was fortunate enough to be part of a Casual Nomads side which took the league by storm. At one point, we had a near monopoly but today, they too are struggling to put out a team that can be competitive every week.
It comes to the point where people must put pride to one side and do what is best for the game as a weak Jewish league is beneficial to no-one. It would be more worthwhile to get the strongest product possible out there. It’s vital that people starting pulling together before it’s too late.
One or two MSFL managers were crying foul after matches were abandoned in the closing stages due to bad weather. The judgement on whether or not a pitch is playable should be left to the referee. Afterall, if both teams are prepared to start a match, they should be prepared to finish it, whatever the score, come rain or shine. It is bad form for a representative of the losing team to put pressure on the match official to halt proceedings.
In the instance of a hailstorm, some refs did the sensible thing, taking the teams off the pitch before allowing them to play out the final 10-20 minutes. But others didn’t fancy it and called a halt there and then.