Huddersfield Cricket League chairman Trevor Atkinson recently put out a strongly-worded statement regarding players’ unacceptable behaviour towards umpires.
This growth of bad behaviour has already caused one experienced umpire to resign this season. Huddersfield Hub spoke to three separate clubs to garner some reaction to the statement.
Mr Atkinson’s statement says: “A number of Huddersfield Cricket League Panel Umpires have reported being forced to suffer an unacceptable lack of respect and appreciation during matches that took place on Saturday 6th May. As a result one long-standing, senior, experienced and highly respected HCL Panel Umpire has resigned with immediate effect.
“Many of his other umpiring colleagues have also complained about having to deal with similar amounts of ‘sarcastic comments, automatic challenging of virtually every material in-game decision made, visible unhappiness with decisions made regarding the management of matches affected by inclement weather, and being treated with a persistent general lack of respect’ from players.
“Following Saturday 6th HCL has received a formal complaint from the Chairman of the HCL Umpires’ Association regarding the widespread poor treatment of Umpires which is described as occasionally amounting to totally unacceptable verbal abuse, but often amounting to a very unpleasant harassment of their members.
“Whilst these problems do not relate to every player or every team or every match the amount of critical negative feedback received following the 6th, and only three fixture weekends into the 2023 season, is totally unprecedented. These developments are deeply worrying, and cannot be allowed to continue and will not be tolerated.”
The statement added: “The vast majority of decisions made by umpires in response to in-match events, or to manage events – including inclement weather – are judgements – without the benefit of replays… Many of these judgments are difficult and far from black or white.”
Mr Atkinson called on captains to support umpires and “work with them to manage events and their players. It is not the role of the Captain to undermine the authority of the Umpire, or to lead the charge of attacking Umpires on every decision made, or to harass and apply undue pressure on Umpires to gain an unfair advantage. This is absolutely not acceptable.”
The statement warned that without umpires there is no game and players were told they must show more respect to the officials.
It said the league expected more disciplinary reports from umpires and warned clubs of “more severe sanctions than in the past.”
It went on: “The Spirit of Cricket that has been at the heart of our game for so many years is surely something that remains important to the cricket community of the Huddersfield League. We now need to step up and follow it.”
In reaction to that statement we spoke to Scholes Cricket Club captain Ben Birkhead, who said: “Cricket is a competitive sport and maybe at times moments have been crossed where players’ emotions and frustrations have gone too far.
“Of course umpires should be spoken to in a proper manner. At this level of cricket both players and umpires do it out of love for the game, not the financial reward, and when players cross that white line no one wants to lose.”
While Mr Birkhead wasn’t sure the statement needed to be issued, he said: “We had a meeting with the league on Monday in what was a constructive discussion and there were lots of positives to come out of it.
“That needs to be the thing taken away here, the fact that the league listened to our points and we had a positive discussion with them.”
Moorlands captain Eddie Walmsley added his thoughts in reaction to the statement and said: “Cricket is an emotional game and sometimes those emotions can go over the line as much as we try not to let them.
“People can fly off the handle but the issue is when umpires feel they’ve been abused and it’s over a prolonged period of time. I think personally the league did the right thing putting out a strong statement saying they won’t stand for it any longer and they are going to come down on it harder if it continues.
“At the end of the day without umpires we have no game so it is an issue that needs sorting. I think with the league trying to attain an ECB official rating they are stamping down on behaviour harder now. I wouldn’t say it’s gotten much worse compared to previous years.
“I personally haven’t seen umpires being abused but I thought it was a strong and good statement released by the league who have nipped it in the bud early and not let it drag on.”
Thongsbridge club secretary Kieran O’Shea also responded and said: “The league put out a strong statement and we support both the league and the umpire association. Umpires are a vital part of our game and they should be respected.
“The conduct of our players is really important to us and captains of all our teams are told to watch out for how we behave as a team.
“We haven’t seen any bad behaviour ourselves as a club but that’s not to say it doesn’t go on and you do hear of things happening so I understand the reasons for the league’s statement.”