Cricket’s Palace Shield has decided on a momentous change, one of the most significant in its history spanning more than a century - it has given the go-ahead to a tie-up with the Northern Premier League.
Promotion and relegation between the two leagues will now come into immediate effect.
Palace Shield clubs approved the milestone change at a special meeting held at the BAC/EE Cricket Club, with a vote of around 80 per cent in favour.
The top two sides in the Palace Shield premier will be eligible for promotion to the Northern League – the two lowest-place teams in the Northern League will be automatically relegated to the Palace Shield premier.
Promotion is described as optional for Palace Shield teams.
League secretary Dave Lever explained: “We have left it optional rather than automatic.
“It would be down to any club that is eligible to be promoted whether they wanted to go up - they may not want to travel longer distances in the Northern League or play in a competition that has different rules to the Palace Shield.”
Lever said the tie-up that has now been approved between the two leagues was a ‘big breakthrough’
He added: “People have talked about something like this for years and years and it has never happened, but now it has.”
Leyland captain David Makinson has hailed the link-up ‘as a positive for local cricket’.
“I can’t see how it can be anything but a positive for local league cricket,” he said.
“If clubs in the Palace Shield are interested in trying their hand at playing in the Northern League then they can do by winning promotion.”
However, the skipper of last season’s Northern League champions believes a few of the finer details need to be ironed out.
He is slightly concerned at the prospect of promotion being only optional.
Clubs finishing in the top two places in the Palace Shield premier will have until September 30 to decide whether they will make the step up, although they could come to a decision earlier than that.
It could lead to the situation where the relegated clubs will drop out of the Northern League one season, but could be saved the following year.
“I think that could be a bit unfair,” Makinson said. “If you look at the Premier League in football, if you finish in the bottom three you get relegated – that is it.
“You could also have a situation where teams could be fighting for their lives to avoid relegation, but then find out it was all for nothing because the top two in the Palace Shield have decided they don’t want to play in the Northern League.”
The prospect of relegation may make the season more exciting, but Makinson does not believe that will make clubs try harder than what they are already doing.
“I play for Leyland now but I used to play for Leyland Motors, who were down near the bottom,” said Makinson.
“We always used to try hard right until the end of the season because we didn’t want to finish bottom.
“we competed to get as high as we could in the league table.
“With the threat of relegation, there will be extra pressure and it might make it more exciting.
“But we have played teams who were near the bottom towards the end of the season and they have given us tough games.”