Club Cricket Conference

Thursday, 28th May 2020

MCC try 'red' and 'yellow' in leagues to bolster umpire powers

By Charles Randall

23 May 2016

New umpire sanctions, including 'red' and 'yellow' card deterrents, are being implemented this summer in club cricket on a trial basis in an attempt by the MCC to combat bad on-field behaviour.

The testing areas for 2016 so far include the Hertfordshire and Home Counties leagues  and  selected university matches. This means that players face being sent off for a specific period or being excluded entirely for breaches within four levels of the ECB Code of Conduct. At the same time the Cornwall and Worcestershire leagues are introducing five-run penalties for discipline, a sanction tried out in the Bradford League with success in 2015.

The MCC have emphasised that no actual coloured cards will be used. The umpires, in agreement, are to instruct the captain to carry out sanctions, which may or may not carry a warning. Breaches of ECB Code Level 4, concerning assault, will incur immediate exclusion for the rest of the match. Level 3 breaches, including attempts to intimidate an umpire and serious dissent, will incur a suspension of 10 overs or one fifth of the allocation in a limited overs game.

Concern has been building in recent years that on-field behaviour has deteriorated markedly in league cricket. The fact that five  games were abandoned in 2015 due to brawling underlined the need for strong action. The MCC took the lead by running a survey of international umpires around the world over the winter, and the urgent need to introduce on-field penalties became apparent. Umpires had no power, for example, to punish fighting short of abandoning the game or calling the police. Any miscreant might be banned at a later hearing, but could continue in the match.  No other sport would tolerate that, and the Laws of Cricket might be amended accordingly in 2017. Now at last the hotheads will get a cooling-off period away from the middle.

The point is that the deterrent should be enough, and umpires can give quiet informal warnings, knowing they can back up words with action if necessary. There has been an interesting precedent for the 'card' system in New Zealand. A couple of years ago the Northern Districts authorities were so concerned about appalling behaviour in their clubs that they armed umpires with the power to send players off. A few miscreants fell foul of the rules in the early months - but then attitudes changed completely for the better.  This has encouraged the MCC to try out the idea in England. After all, those league disciplinary panels have earned a break.

Clubs have been circulated with detailed listing of the ECB Code breaches and the likely sanctions, with the MCC's 'philosophy' of umpiring as this postscript: "Umpires should, where appropriate, go about their business in the same way that they would have done before these changes. It is important for the trial that umpires do not become over-assertive, and should perform as they have done in the past, so that comparisons can be made. The sanctions are there to support the umpires in dealing with  any disciplinary incidents and can be used as a warning and reminder of the consequences of unfair play, when initially dealing with a developing situation."

The Club Cricket Conference has expressed concern that leagues are losing too many umpires, with many citing on-field verbal abuse. This alone is a  good reason for hoping the MCC trial becomes a resounding success.

At the same time the MCC have released a free Laws of Cricket app with eight sections of easily digestible explanations, imagery,   animations and a three-level quiz. There are 15 Laws animations available to view,  voiced by broadcaster Stephen Fry, explaining various Laws including ‘damaging the pitch’ and ‘obstructing the field’.

MCC Laws of Cricket app, free download:

Android app:

iOS app: