THE Aire-Wharfe League are targeting parents, players and coaches in a bid to swell their umpiring numbers.

These groups must attend an ECB officials’ training programme introductory course, which would be held over one day of a weekend, in order to qualify to stand at any level of cricket.

Bernard Thornton, appointments secretary of the Airedale & Wharfedale Senior Cricket League (AWSCL) Umpires’ Association, addressed the league’s annual meeting at Otley RUFC before Christmas to highlight the difficulty of recruiting and retaining umpires for their panel.

He admits: “It is true to say that the AWSCL is better served than most for umpires, but this is no reason for us to stand still. Our aim is to have two umpires at every match wherever possible.

“However hard we try to seek out diverse methods, contacts within member clubs are and always will be the most reliable and successful.

“Several candidates from AWSCL clubs have already signed up, which is great news.

“The ECB have even raised the possibility of a dedicated introductory course for our league this winter if we can generate enough interest.”

Thornton added: “Following on from the introductory course, it is hoped that more people from minority groups (e.g. women, ethnic minorities, juniors) will take up umpiring, which might well involve junior, Sunday and lower-division league matches, at least in the early stages. Clubs will be closely involved with this.”

The league are certainly doing their bit financially, agreeing to pay all of the £70 fee for the introductory course for any candidate introduced by a member club.

The offer is only for 2024, and the league are willing to pay for the course for a maximum of five club members.

However, umpiring can be a lonely pastime, and the league are hoping to provide mentors who will chat to the new umpires both before and after matches and monitor an umpire’s development.

Courses are at King James’ School, Knaresborough on Saturday, January 27, and Beckfoot Oakbank Sports Centre, Keighley on Sunday, February 25.

It is also possible that senior league umpires would go to clubs for meetings to discuss officiating and answer questions.

Some clubs have already said that they have prospective umpires within their ranks on the back of the league’s 2023 player survey.

These expressions of interest have been followed up by the league and have borne fruit.

Clubs are being asked to discuss at their annual meetings or social functions if there is anyone interested in umpiring; to encourage club members to take up their white coats; to ask the league questions re umpiring if anything is bothering them; and to confirm attendees at the introductory course.

The link to the Knaresborough course is

The link to the Oakbank course is