It was CB Fry of Sussex , Hampshire and England who said, in 1903, the year the Bradford Cricket League was founded, “Umpires are like water heaters, you only notice them when they go wrong.”
Certainly the new league seems to have viewed umpires as nothing more than a necessity with each club being asked to nominate up to three to stand in first team matches. For this the umpires were paid 2/6d (12.5p) per match by the club nominating them – not the club where they officiated.
Only Allerton, Clayton, Dudley Hill, Great Horton and Queensbury were able to nominate the full complement of three umpires. Eccleshill and Undercliffe struggled to come up with one volunteer.
Umpires were instructed: “Always strive to be fair and prompt in giving decisions. Be calm and alert, but not prone to take offence, and do not argue with players on any disputed point. You are requested to report to the committee any impertinent or fractious player, or any club committing gross breaches of rules.”
An increase of fees in 1906 to 3/6d (17.5p) for the first team matches and 2/6d for second team matches helped to raise the number of umpires nominated by clubs to 36 and, for the first time, they were paid by the club where they were standing.
In 1907 the whole system became more formalised with clubs asked to nominate umpires to the league committee by the end of February. The league secretary then sent a list of nominees to each club which had 14 days to raise any objections. Five members of the league committee were responsible for the allocation of fixtures, the examination and training of umpires and for dealing with cases of “gross inefficiency” by umpires.
By 1913 the growth of the league meant it was no longer possible to recruit sufficient umpires solely from the clubs and a revised League Rule 16 was introduced: “Any competent man shall be eligible for appointment as an umpire, whether connected with any Bradford League club or not.”
This widening of the scope, and an increase of fees to 4s (20p) and 3s (15p) for First Division first and second teams and 2s for Second Division first and second teams respectively, saw the number of umpires increase to 61, 12 of whom were not associated with any particular club.
The First World War years saw the heyday of the league with players such as Jack Hobbs at Idle, Sydney Barnes at Saltaire, Cecil Parkin with Undercliffe, Frank Woolley appearing at Keighley, Percy Holmes at Great Horton and Herbert Sutcliffe at Pudsey Britannia. They were the years of the huge crowds with 10,500 watching the match between Bradford and Great Horton in 1916 and Bowling Old Lane advertising “comfortable seating for 2,000 spectators each week.”
To cope with the popularity the 71 umpires approved by the league in 1915 were paid 5s (25p) for first team matches. This was at a time when admission was four pence for first team games and two pence for second team matches, with boys under 14 being admitted for one penny, It was also at the time that the Yorkshire Sports Saturday Night ha’porth of entertainment in Yorkshire.
All this work was becoming too much for the league committee and in 1919 the Bradford Cricket League Umpires Association was formed. Its objects were:
• To create and maintain a spirit of comradeship to improve the efficiency of all umpires and secure uniformity of action on the field of play.
• To co-operate with the Bradford League Committee in surpressing all rowdyism and unsportsmanship, and to assist the committee in their efforts for the further progress of the league.
It immediately adopted the motto ‘Without fear or favour’, a motto which still holds today. A joining fee of 2/6d was charged for new members and an annual fee of 2s had to be paid before the first match of the season with a fine of sixpence being levied for non attendance at meetings.
The president was appointed by the league but the first chairman, TF Hoyle was one of Undercliffe’s nominated umpires and the growing influence of umpires not connected with any particular club was evidenced by the appointment of W Briggs as secretary.
It was when independent umpires out-numbered those nominated by clubs. Perhaps they were attracted by the match fee which was increased to 7/6d for the first team and 5/6d for second teams. The following year this was supplemented by the additional award of expenses equivalent to the match fee.
In 1926 GP Heaton was appointed secretary, an appointment he was to hold until 1948. In fact in all its 86 year history the association has only had nine secretaries. In 1932 the association ceased to differentiate between umpires nominated by clubs and those who joined independently. That year, for the first time, all members were designated just as umpires. Two years later the association managed to negotiate for half the match fees, plus return tram fare to be paid in the event of no play being possible.
The role of the association was recognised by the league in 1936 when it allowed two representatives to sit on the league committee, although it did stipulate that they should not be allowed to vote. It was also the year that the MCC introduced the lbw law. This was adopted by the league but was monitored by a different signal and entry in the scorebook for batsmen given out under the new law, who would not have been out under the old one.
The introduction of life membership for those members with 21 years service came in 1941. The fine, which had now been increased to 2s, for non attendance at meetings could also be waived if the umpire could show that his absence was due to: Death or serious illness of the umpire or a close family member, annual holidays, being engaged on business of the Bradford Cricket League or being engaged on work of national importance in the battle with the enemy.
A further concession to the war effort was made the following year. At the time the league was still playing timed cricket. In 1942 the league committee decreed the umpires could authorise a maximum of a further 30 minutes play if the match was interrupted by an air raid. This was also the first year the umpires appointments were shown in the league handbook and the association listed its headquarters as the County Restaurant.
Fees were increased to 10/6d for the first team appointments in 1944 and 7/6d for second team fixtures – the first increase since 1920. These were in addition to the tram fares. The national situation had also improved and the league saw fit to drop the extra half hour in the event of an air raid. At that time matches started at 2.30pmwith first side allowed to bat until 5pm at the latest. The second side could then bat from 5.15 to 7.45pm . The one concession was that at the start of the final over either captain could claim four more overs. This was signalled by the umpire at the bowler’s end waving two white handkerchiefs to the scorers in the style of a Morris dancer.
George Hudson, the longest serving member in the history of the association, joined in 1948 and is still a life member. It was also the year that match fees were increased to 17/6d for first teams and 12/6d for second team fixtures. This was quite a sizeable increase when admission to matches was still only sixpence for gentlemen, threepence for ladies and one penny for children. Unfortunately the increased fees were slightly offset by the removal of the return tram fare.
At a time when the chairman of the association changed on an annual basis, continuity was provided through the role of the secretary and in 1948 R Westmoreland replaced GP Heaton to become the third secretary of the association.
The 1950s passed relatively uneventfully for the association with several increases in fees until 1961 when it finally rose to £1 5s 0d for the first team games and £1 for second team matches. This was also the year in which Gerry O’Keefe joined. He was to remain an active member until his death in 2000. The year of 1961 marked the final year of membership for GP Hanlon, the last of the founding members of the association.
Derek Shuttleworth joined the umpiring ranks in 1964. He became chairman in 1968 and held that position on and off until 1997 when he became the association’s first president from among the membership. Prior to that, the president had always been appointed by the league.
In 1972 Derek was joined by Ernest Jones, who had joined the association a year earlier, as secretary. These two, together with John Hardaker who became vice-chairman in 1976, were to guide the association for almost 30 years.
The fine for no-attendance at meetings, which was now 15p, was dropped in 1973, but any member who failed to attend three consecutive meetings ‘ without good excuse’ risked expulsion from the association. During the 1970s match fees increased in stages from £1.50 to £6.
All the time the league had continued to handle the appointment of umpires and allocation of fixtures, but in 1983, 80 years after the founding of the league that duty was given to the association.
Hardaker immediately resigned as vice-chairman to take on the important new role as appointment secretary.
In 1988 he handed over to Alan Carter and resumed his duties as vice-chairman. Hardaker immediately resigned as vice-chairman to take on the important new role as appointment secretary. In 1988 he handed over to Alan Carter and resumed his duties as vice-chairman.
Further evidence of the improving trust between the league and the association came in 1988 when the umpires’ representatives on the league committee were finally allowed a vote, 32 years after they had first been accepted on the committee.
In 1989 Andrew Bullock took over as appointments secretary from Carter, a position he still holds today as the longest serving member of the current executive. Hardaker retired as vice-chairman in 1995 and sadly after 25 years in office, Ernest Jones had to retire as secretary on health grounds in 1997. During that time match fees had increased from £1.75 to £17.50.
The association was faced by the introduction of the revised Laws of Cricket in 2000. The executive rose to the challenge with a series of courses attended by all members to enable them to cope with the changes. It also ran a series of eight seminars for captains and separate courses for scorers.
A system of umpire assessment was introduced in 1999. These assessments have helped the association to draw up panels of umpires to stand in different types of matches in 2002. The assessment has also been extended to include the views of second team captains.
The officers of the association have regular meetings with captains to discuss areas of concern and captains are invited to address full meetings of the association to help improve the relationship between players and umpires.
An aggressive policy of recruitment is pursued with courses for new umpires being held each October and examination courses under the auspices of the England & Wales Cricket Board Association of Cricket Officiaks held during the spring.
With these initiatives the executive of the association feels it is in an ideal position to help the league progress and maintain its reputation as one of the highest standards of league cricket in the country.