Huddersfield Cricket League umpire Robert Heap has warned of an umpiring crisis and says the game must act quickly to solve the issue. 

Robert, 70, of Holmfirth, will be going into his 26th year of umpiring in the Huddersfield Cricket League next season. Overall it’ll be his 29th year officiating matches.

A respected figure in the local game, Robert won the Rob Stewart Award at this year’s league annual dinner for distinguished services to umpiring. 

On the current problem Robert said: “Umpiring isn’t as popular as it once was. My dad Harold did it for 30 years before I followed him. I love the game of cricket, I always have and down the years I have enjoyed doing this role.

“A few years ago they tried to get a pool of umpires but for some reason that stopped. Former players aren’t interested in taking up the role and we haven’t got enough youngsters, both men and women, coming through.

“At the moment we really only have enough umpires to properly look after all the Premiership and Championship first eleven fixtures. None for the conference league or second team games or cup matches. It’s not just our league that’s struggling, it’s a nationwide crisis.

Scholes v Honley in the Huddersfield Cricket League. Pic by: SEAN DOYLE

“I speak to a lot of former players and there are two main reasons why they won’t take up umpiring. One is money – umpires don’t get paid enough and that is something the league should look at – and the other is the abuse umpires get these days.

“The league has got bigger and better but with that comes a competitive edge. It’s got competitive with players now being paid good wages to play.

“Some get bonuses for getting runs and some for bowling a number of people out. If these players don’t hit their targets they can get quite competitive and give umpires a bit of abuse and some of the language isn’t particularly nice, to be honest.

“That’s why some of the older guys have given up because they are fed up of the players’ behaviour. That is why former players don’t want to do it.

“The other thing, of course, is that for the younger generation umpiring isn’t a glitzy job and there is so much more out there now for them to do.” 

Speaking about the honour of receiving the Rob Stewart Award at the annual dinner at Elland Cricket Club, Robert added: “It was a great evening.

“I don’t do the role for the thanks but for the love of the game, just like my dad did. I think he would have been really pleased to see me pick up that award.”  

In a statement on their website the Huddersfield League said they were finalising a new initiative aimed at combating the crisis in staffing cricket matches with qualified umpires. 

As part of a range of experimental rules, being introduced for 2023 to get the new restructured, integrated, seven division league up and running, the executive are calling on all clubs to help ‘do their bit’ by providing umpires.

The statement says: “The Umpires Association at this moment currently have less than 40 names on their independent panel which is alarmingly only enough to staff the top two divisions and some matches in the Conference.

“Twelve umpires are required to staff each division, so when holidays and other unavailability are taken into account, there is a shortfall that shows itself in the understaffing of some Conference games on most match Saturdays.

“In 2023 the new experimental rules will require Club Umpires to be made available, on a rotation basis, to help plug the gap and step up to staff Conference fixtures alongside Panel Umpires.  

“The Club Umpires selected to step up will also be required to be trained and qualified to at least ECB ACO (Association of Cricket Officials) levels so that they are as well equipped as possible to handle these higher level matches.

“This fits together with another rule change submission already announced to clubs which is seeking to ensure that all regular Club Umpires are qualified to at least the same minimum standard of ECB ACO Stage I. This is part of the League’s drive to underpin the great service Club Umpires already provide with a formal basic qualification.”

Find out more about becoming an umpire HERE. There’s also an in-person training course taking place at Broad Oak CC on Saturday January 14 2023 (9.30am-4pm).

For more information contact HCL Umpires Association’s David Haikings on