THE Dales Council League, and especially their umpires’ association, are grappling with the thorny perennial issue of how to increase umpiring numbers.

The league are set to start the season on Saturday, April 17 with just 13 panel umpires and 13 more on the supplementary list to cover three divisions.

Although no rules can change before the league’s annual meeting in October, the Dales Council League Umpires’ Association put on their thinking caps at their pre-season meeting, which was held by Zoom.

The Aire-Wharfe League have a jealousy-inducing 118 panel umpires for 2021, and their carrot-and-stick approach found some favour from the Dales Council officials.

League fixtures secretary Ken Firth said: “The Aire-Wharfe League take £50 off a club’s league subscription for the following year if they have an umpire or umpires that officiates in a minimum of eight matches.

“On the other hand, they add another £50 to a club’s league subscription if they fail to provide an umpire or umpire that stands in at least six games.”

While some within the DCUA baulked at the punishment of £50, fearing that it might put some clubs out of business, it was also pointed out that £50 for a season only equates to something like £2.50 a game.

It was felt that perhaps a watered-down version of the Aire-Wharfe League’s rules regarding incentives to clubs to provide umpires might work, while a deduction of 10 league points for every match that clubs failed to provide an umpire was also mentioned (the maximum points haul for each club in a match is 20).

Just to underline the difficulties that Dales Council League umpires’ appointments secretary Maria Vasudev faces, she revealed: “I have written to every club in the league appealing to them about providing umpires, and got no response.

“I will staff the first two divisions and after that games involving home clubs who have not provided an umpire will not get an umpire.”

Firth added: “The first clubs to complain about not getting an umpire are usually the clubs who have not provided an umpire.

“Normally we have 15 matches every Saturday or, on at least two occasions, 16 matches.”

However, not all 26 umpires will be available on any given Saturday as some will be on holiday or be ill or just plain unavailable.