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Age of umpires a decisive factor in when cricket will return in the Two Counties Championship, says leading umpire Ron Raisey

The availability of umpires could scupper new plans to get the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship’s 2020 season under way from July, or even August.

That is the view of Iliffe Media East's 'Caught in the Middle' columnist Ron Raisey, who is also the current vice chairman of the Suffolk Association of Cricket Officials (Suffolk ACO) – the body who provide umpires to the league.

The 72-year-old who officiates himself and is set to become chairman of the Suffolk ACO in September, believes there could be problems if the government advise over-70s should stay in isolation until a COVID-19 vaccine is available.

Cricket Columnist Ron Raisey. (33882893)
Cricket Columnist Ron Raisey. (33882893)

“In the Two Counties around 80 per cent of umpires are over 70, so it will be a very big problem that could have huge ramifications,” he said.

Proposals on how the current season could be salvaged amid the delayed start caused by the coronavirus pandemic were published on the Two Counties’ website last weekend.

Drawn up through meetings from the league’s management sub-committee, they included either a half season from July, with fixtures having already set to be reversed from July 4, or a cup competition from August.

Bury St Edmunds Cricket Club.Victory Sports Ground, Nowton Road, Bury St.Edmunds Suffolk. Picture Mark Westley. (33547783)
Bury St Edmunds Cricket Club.Victory Sports Ground, Nowton Road, Bury St.Edmunds Suffolk. Picture Mark Westley. (33547783)

Promotion and relegation could be halved to one up and one down, none at all, or remain the same, their statement said.

The demographic for the match officials in Sudbury’s Read Brothers Ltd East Anglian Premier League (EAPL) is not as high.

But EAPL secretary Andy Abbott acknowledged it could be a real problem lower down the pyramid.

He said reports they had decided to scrap relegation in the EAPL for 2020 were ‘not true’ and no decisions had been taken about how their season could work pending further advice from the ECB and government. The former has suspended the professional game until May 28 and the recreational game indefinitely, in response to the pandemic.

Both the Two Counties and EAPL had been due to start last weekend.

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