Cricket: Further clubs come under investigation over ineligible players
THE investigation into ineligible players in the North Staffs and South Cheshire League could rumble on for weeks, if not months, The Sentinel can reveal.
The league has been thrown into turmoil with further clubs joining the original seven under investigation over allegations that some of their players have been taking part in other competitions on a Sunday or in midweek.
League rules state that clubs cannot field a player who has figured for another team in any league during the current season.
Stone League, Phoenix League and under-21 competitions are except from the ruling.
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Officials had hoped to resolve the ever-expanding saga ahead of this weekend's final matches of the season with several promotion and relegation issues still to be resolved.
However, due to the weight of clubs allegedly caught in the row, the league's management are bracing themselves for a prolonged period of investigation into player actions.
Officials will continue to plan for next season once this year's campaign has been concluded.
Investigations could continue up to the start of next season if clubs' involvement in the saga isn't unmasked in the coming weeks.
And the problem appears to be have been compounded after it emerged that second XI players are also coming under scrutiny.
Affected clubs, which span all four divisions in the league, are being notified of the league's stance as information comes to hand.
They have also been told of how many points they may stand to lose if they are found guilty.
However, speculation that clubs have already been hit with points penalties are wide of the mark.
League officials are hoping to meet later this week to review matters and see how best to proceed.
But the scenario may well prompt calls for a review of the rules – which are voted for by clubs – ahead of next season to avoid a similar scenario occurring.
Premier Division Cheadle were punished for fielding an ineligible player earlier in the season.
Former Derbyshire all-rounder Garry Park was banned from the league for the rest of the season in June after he breached league regulations by playing for Lancashire League side Rochdale.
Cheadle were deducted 76 points – the number gained in the matches Park had played following his return to the club.
The Moorlanders slumped to the foot of the table and have now been relegated back to Division One after just one season in the top flight.
NSSCL president Chris Hopkin admitted the situation had damaged the league's reputation.
"As officers we are deeply distressed about what is happening," he said. Hopefully, we can resolve the issues swiftly."