Sandy Strang: League structure could face dismissal

HAS Scotland's national league already had its brief day? We're just eleven rounds of a rain-ravaged season into the freshly-reconstituted 32-team Premiership/Championship set-up - belatedly reduced to 31 with the exclusion of Edinburgh CC. But already the alarm bells are ringing.

Could this first season also be the last?. I can reveal that clandestine top-level talks have already taken place involving some of the major club forces.

More formal, official meetings are to follow next week prior to reporting to the Cricket Scotland Future Structures Group to seek an immediate disbandment of the SNCL and a reversion to a regional format for Season 2012.

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Much of the thrust for this revolutionary move comes from the west, whose clubs - they represent 13 of the 31 current SNCL members - will be aiming for re-entry into the Western Union. Significantly a crucial path for such a major turnabout has already been cleared with the formation of this year's inaugural SNCL Reserve League (West) to complement the WDCU Premiership, Championship and lower league conferences.

But what about those eslsewhere in Scotland? Clubs in Edinburgh and the East could, of course, readily revert to the East of Scotland Cricket Association (ESCA) but the main stumbling block could be clubs north of the central belt, including some current Premiership big names such as Aberdeenshire, Forfarshire and newly-emergent league and Scottish Cup contenders Arbroath.

Their previous domain, the Scottish Counties Championship, ceased with the initial formation of a national league back in the late 1990s. A so-called Caledonian League, built on the proven structure of the recently-struggling Strathmore Union, could provide a workable framework.

Other crucial considerations would include the chosen destinations of the likes of Premiership Stirling County and Championship West Lothian, both vibrant clubs currently on the up. Should they head east, west, or north? These are key questions which require to be addressed - and answered - right now.

There appears to be no indication of any real will on the part of Cricket Scotland to save the seemingly-doomed SNCL. A key justification of its creation was the belief it would further help bridge the perceived large gap between club and representative cricket by providing a more competitive elite club base which would ultimately benefit our international teams. But there's no compelling evidence that this has actually happened. Rather the recently-enhanced provision of regional select cricket via the 50-over and T20 competitions for the Western Warriors, Eastern Knights and Caledonian Highlanders - allied to the Scottish age-group squads, regional academies and Scottish Lions fixtures - would appear to be fitting the transitional bill instead. Just, indeed, as the underestimated former SCU District Championship did prior to its untimely enforced demise.This unusually wet 2011 summer hasn't helped the SNCL's credibility either.

Rain has randomly ruined the card on many of the eleven weeks so far, with only 100 of a scheduled 165 Premiership and Championship games having reached a result. That 60 per cent completion rate might just be the final straw for a concept and structure which is already tottering.

The writing is already indelibly on the wall. SNCL 1998-2011. RIP.