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NCU battling rapid decline in behaviour on the field

 

By Staff Reporter

The punch-up in last month's Junior League One game at The Lawn may have been the highest profile disciplinary case to be heard this year, but it was certainly not the first.

Already, just halfway through the season, there have been 13 players suspended, compared with just six in the whole of last summer.

And while the 11 and 12-month bans for the Waringstown pair of Ian Morrison and Alan Harrison following last month's Junior League One game between the club's Second and Third XIs may be the start of a crackdown by the NCU, their punishment is not quite as draconian as it would appear at first sight.

Harrison's ban is until May 15 next year but by that time it is quite possible that Waringstown II, the team he was playing for on June 24, may have played only 10 matches - the minimum suspension for a Level 4 offence, which they were found guilty of.

The Second XI have nine games left this season (there can be a number of void games at this level) and before May 15 this year they played only two games - so it is possible that Harrison, although given a 10-month ban, may miss a maximum of 11 matches.

The Third XI have only seven games left so although Morrison's ban takes him to June 15, he is likely to miss only a similar number of games - if they choose to resume their playing careers. It has already been reported that both players are considering retiring.

By coincidence, an NCU management board meeting took place two days after the incident and although some members may have heard about the 'Fight at The Lawn', it was not discussed.

However, the board was informed of a sharp rise in disciplinary cases this year and that week the NCU released a 'Letter from the Management Board Regarding Standards of Behaviour'.

The letter states the board's concern that "The number of occasions on which umpires have reported players for breaches of the disciplinary regulations is already in excess of the figure for the whole of the 2016 season (13, with two still to be processed as opposed to just six last year).

"There have also been reports of incidents involving club officials and spectators. The Board is also aware of social media being used to make inappropriate comments about opposing clubs, players and umpires."

It goes on to stress that "Captains are responsible at all times for ensuring that play is conducted within the Spirit of the Game as well as within the Laws" and points clubs to the Preamble to the Laws of Cricket which is 'The Spirit of Cricket'.

That may be sound advice but is hardly likely to have club secretaries or, more importantly, players rushing to the online link provided - and expect to see an immediate decline in unruly behaviour.

If two family friends - Harrison and Morrison are cousins - can be provoked into coming to blows on the field - albeit they made up almost immediately - then it can happen anywhere, anytime although perhaps significantly the most serious offences this season have occurred down the leagues.

The punch-up was in a Junior League One match, the fifth tier of cricket in the NCU, and the only Level 3 offence this season was one section higher in Senior League 3. All four Premier League players disciplined have been for Level 1 offences, so as you would expect, the higher the standard of cricket the more responsible are the players - or are they?

NCU General Secretary Bryan Milford has kept a league table of disciplinary offences since he took over in 2008 and the club which has received the most suspensions in that time are CIYMS - currently co-leaders of the Premier League.

Although virtually all Level 1 offences, the Belmont club have chalked up 12 separate offences but they are followed by Carrickfergus and Instonians with eight and Civil Service North with seven - four of last season's top five clubs.

The table continues with seven Derriaghy players reported, Waringstown and Holywood with six and Bangor four.

A mitigating factor in those statistics is that the top umpires officiate in the Premier League and would be likely to stamp down on bad behaviour - and those Level 1 offences include "excessive appealing". Further down the leagues with not such experienced umpires, it is only the serious offences that are reported.

It is a worrying trend and, at the present rate, there could be over 30 cases for the disciplinary panel this season - a five-fold increase on 2016.

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