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Cricket: Time running out for Welsh clubs.

Byline: Gareth Griffiths

WALES' leading cricket clubs have been warned the sport in the Principality faces being left behind if plans for a Premier League are delayed.

Moves to merge the South Wales Cricket League and South Wales Cricket Association has consistently seen leading clubs opposed to the idea.

And the Cricket Board of Wales have become so frustrated with the current state of affairs they have made a direct appeal to the clubs to get their house in order.

The CBW had originally set next summer as the date to combine the leagues.

In a letter to the top 40 clubs across South Wales, a deadline of yesterday was originally given to come on board.

But the CBW have now given clubs more time to discuss the issue.

``We sent out the letter in December, and the clubs have asked if they could have more time to discuss it, so we have put back the deadline,'' said Mike Fatkin, CBW secretary and Glamorgan chief executive. ``It is important we keep talking with the clubs, especially in the west. We need to debate the issues and see if we can get this resolved as soon as possible. ``We understand their concerns, but all we are trying to do is get the top club players in Wales playing against each other on a regular basis.''

Support for the merger has always been stronger in the south-east and a Premier League was established here in 2001.

``We are just waiting for the green light from the boys in the west,'' said league secretary Phil Haines.

``The clubs in our league are strongly in favour of it. ``It will mean that all the top club players in South Wales will be playing against each other.

``This will create a stronger level of competition that will feed through to Glamorgan.''

The SWCA has continually rejected the concept of an amalgamated league, citing the increased transport time and costs as a major hurdle. In the letter, Fatkin told the clubs the standard of cricket in Wales could suffer if there was further delay.

``The lack of progress has been frustrating, especially as the overwhelming majority of English counties have managed to introduce Premier League cricket,'' he said. ``We are concerned we might be running the risk of being left out on a limb.''

Fatkin also warned clubs this was one last opportunity to come on board.

``The CBW is totally committed to the establishment of a new Premier League as soon as possible and this is one final opportunity for clubs to come on board,'' he said. ``The formation of a new Premier League and adapting its structure will now be based on the number of clubs who want to join.

``For clubs who do not wish to, there would be no intention of exerting any further pressure upon them. ``But turning down the opportunity would mean they would have to start from scratch in terms of joining the new league once it is up and running.

``The Board has worked very hard over a long period of time to try and persuade clubs to buy into a new Premier League structure.''
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUW
Date:Jan 7, 2003
Words:527
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