Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Cricket Ireland to significantly increase investment in match officials

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Photo Credit: Sportsfile

Cricket Ireland is set to increase its investment into match officials by 81% paving the way for a major revamp of the oversight and administration of umpires, scorers and match referees to transfer directly to the national governing body.

The Irish Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers (IACUS), a volunteer association which has for the past 15 years looked after match officials (umpires, match referees and scorers) across Ireland, voted at its recent AGM to dissolve the entity and transfer its core functions to Cricket Ireland.

At present, there is no specific match official administration role funded across Irish cricket, while only four match officials (the international umpire panel) are contracted.

Since Full Membership, a new era of Irish cricket has seen a massive increase in match official administration, with a 426% increase in the volume of appointments since 2018. Outside of Cricket Ireland appointments, Irish match officials have also been involved in ICC events in eleven different countries in the past three years.​

In recent years, IACUS representatives have approached Cricket Ireland to discuss the integration of its responsibilities within a professional environment, and in 2023 it was agreed that consultation would begin on the process.

As a result of this work, Cricket Ireland has agreed to establish a new team within its Cricket Operations department to deliver the services that the volunteer-run IACUS entity previously delivered.

In addition, Cricket Ireland will:

  • extend the seasonal contracts of the four International Panel umpires;
  • establish contracts for the International Match Referees panel;
  • establish contracts for the First Class Umpires panel;
  • create a First Class Match Referee panel; and
  • create new contracted International Scorers panel.

Furthermore, Cricket Ireland will initiate steps to develop plans around development pathways for match officials, including a female umpires recruitment strategy from grassroots to the professional game to attract more people into match officiating.

Speaking after Sunday’s IACUS AGM, Phil Thompson, Chair of IACUS, said:

“We are extremely pleased to see the proposal for the professionalisation of our work being taken up by Cricket Ireland – the dedication and commitment of IACUS volunteers over the last 15 years has been a true labour of love, but the sheer demands now placed upon volunteers is completely unsustainable. There has been a 426% increase in appointments required, for senior internationals, inter-pros, Super Series, all-Ireland Club Cup competitions, Future Series, national youth and pathway fixtures, and many more.

“IACUS Members have essentially been providing a semi-professional service on a volunteer basis, and this had to change for the sake of Irish cricket. No match can take place without match officials, and Cricket Ireland have proactively engaged with us on this proposal as they recognise our members’ central importance in the game.

“My thanks to IACUS members, Cricket Ireland staff and all those who have helped to turn this idea into reality.”

Richard Fahey, Head of Facilities and Operations at Cricket Ireland, said:

“There are very many proposals to improve Irish cricket that merit consideration, but rarely one so obvious as the professionalisation of match officials’ administration. We recognise, and indeed thank sincerely, the hard work and commitment shown by many volunteers within the IACUS setup to have supported Irish cricket through a period of significant growth. But it is now unarguable that this important area should be professionalised rather than dependent on volunteer roles.

“Roughly speaking, the structure and duties of the new team will align with what IACUS has delivered to date, but we will ensure there are new strategies and plans developed around the future sustainability and growth of the match officials system.

“There are a range of innovations we can explore to this end – for example, using the player pathway competition programme to also act as a development pathway for up-and-coming match referees. We will also look at strategies around female umpire recruitment, and development and encourage more former players into match official roles.

“It’s an exciting new era and one we are looking forward to implementing ahead of the 2024 season. Our thanks to IACUS and its members for working collegiately and making this happen.”

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