Club Cricket Conference

Friday, 20th October 2017

Clubs are enthused by MCC umpire experiment

By Charles Randall


20 December 2016

 
The experiment giving umpires the power to send off abusive players was monitored in three ECB premier leagues during 2016, and the result proved so impressive that change in the Laws  seem inevitable.

The leagues of Hertfordshire, Home Counties and Bradford - alongside the MCC-sponsored universities and a few schools - agreed to arm their umpires with the power to caution and in extreme cases to send off abusive players, and all three leagues noted that on-field behaviour improved markedly.

Mark Williams, a member of the MCC Laws panel, said each league reported they were strongly in favour of continuing the system and regarded removing the ‘card’ sanction as a “step backwards”.

No level three or four transgressions such as violent behaviour,  which would trigger a sending-off, were recorded during the summer. Williams said: “The key was that the players, umpires and captains were aware. There was banter about sending-off and so on, but nobody crossed the line.

“One umpire told me about one player in the Bradford League who never used to shut up during a game, but he didn’t say a single word all afternoon. This is an example of players realising there could be consequences for what they do.”

The important point has been made many times that cricket remains the only sport where serious misdemeanor cannot be dealt with on the field. Even though sanctions can be imposed afterwards - perhaps suspension by the player’s club - violence cannot be punished immediately. For example, a bowler could spit at the umpire and simply continue with his over. Sadly that actually happened.

A brutal, embarrassing exposure of a cricket umpire’s vulnerability was broadcast by Radio 5 Live in November. The mainstream Sunday programme 5 Live Investigates, hosted by Adrian Goldberg, used recent research by Portsmouth University, based on a survey among 763 umpires. About half of the umpires said they had been verbally abused at least twice a season, and no fewer than 21 respondents disclosed they had been physically attacked, a shocking number.

Diminishing enjoyment and abuse were cited as the two main reasons - no doubt connected in many cases - why umpires decide to stop. Nick Cousins, head of the England and Wales Cricket Board Association of Cricket Officials, said: "The game cannot afford to lose these people. If we are being told that large numbers of them are considering giving up the game because of increasing amounts of player abuse, then the one thing we can't do is nothing.”

The Portsmouth research by two professors, Dr Tom Webb and Dr Mike Rayner, looked at cricket after conducting studies into football and rugby, and their findings even attracted the attention of the Daily Telegraph, not usually noted for bothering with recreational cricket. Dr Webb was quoted as saying: “The results were something we would not have expected of cricket,. To see such high numbers being verbally abused was surprising and, although the physical abuse was around three per cent, that still surprised me, as I didn’t expect there to be any at all. It is worrying."

Dr Webb, a senior lecturer in sports management, added: "Participation in sport generally is not that great, and it will only get lower if you are forcing these volunteer officials out. The sense was that umpires do need some form of disciplinary recourse during the game, as they do in other sports, or it will get worse.”

The MCC issued a “training document” for umpires and players early in 2016 before the trial that gave umpires penalty-run and sending-off power to deal with bad behaviour. Changes to the Laws could be considered in October 2017 after last summer’s experiment and “positive” trials in New Zealand.

To assess the effects in the 2016 trial the MCC panel wanted different penalties to be applied in different environments. The ECB’s Code of Conduct Levels of 1 to 4 was used as a guide to what behaviour constituted what level of breach, with some minor alterations. Cricketing offences such as the time wasting by the batting or fielding side (Level 1) were removed so that the offences were entirely focused on player behaviour.

The MCC guidance on modified ECB Code of Conduct for the 2016 trial:

All of the sanctions are intended as deterrents to prevent extremes of player indiscipline. Especially for the Level 3 and 4 sanctions, they are intended to be used rarely, and only if a player is guilty of a very serious offence. It is hoped that the knowledge that such behaviour will result in either a permanent or temporary suspension from the game in progress will significantly reduce the incidence of it.

It is recommended that a notice with a summary of the different levels of breaches and the different sanctions is displayed in the dressing rooms, so that the players are clear and well-informed about the potential consequences of any indiscipline.

The captain is responsible for the behaviour and conduct of his team under Laws 1.4 and 42.1. There will be no ‘red’ and ‘yellow’ cards brandished by the umpires, rather, if they agree that a Level 3 or 4 offence has occurred, they will inform the captain of  the offending player and advise the captain to remove him from the field of play, temporarily or permanently respectively. If the captain were to refuse to act, then the umpires should warn him to reconsider, but that if he were to persist in his refusal, then he would be deemed to be refusing to play under Law 21.3, and the umpires would award the match to the opposing team.

If a bowler is suspended mid-over, then that over must be completed by a different bowler who shall not have bowled the previous over and who shall not bowl the next  over. Such a part over shall count as a full over as far as each bowler’s limit is 

At Levels 1 and 2, the sanction of penalty runs gives the umpires an on-field deterrent and sanction to deal with less extreme indiscipline. At Level 1, on the first occurrence, a first and final official warning would be given to the captain of the offending player, and penalty runs awarded on the second or any subsequent occurrence. Just as they do currently with cricketing offences, such as batsmen running on the pitch or time wasting, umpires have the discretion to issue ‘friendly’ warnings to the captain of an offending player in order to manage any developing situation. At Level 2, penalty runs would be awarded immediately because of the more serious nature of the offence.

The opposition captain shall be informed of any sanction or warning. The scorers must be informed of any sanction that is applied.

This system is not intended to replace the league disciplinary process or any further action that the disciplinary committee may deem necessary. It is intended that any sanction, including any official warning should be reported in full by the umpires. It is also vital and expected that disciplinary committee should impose consistent, realistic and deterring punishments for any reported behaviour, and that the on-field and post-match systems should operate in tandem and co-operation.

The system is workable only where both umpires are qualified and independently appointed. The umpires have to agree that a breach at any Level has occurred, before taking the appropriate action. If they disagree, after discussion, then no action is taken. However, every effort should be made to reach a consensus, particularly if there is further incident.

Disciplinary breach at Level 1 

(a) Abuse of cricket ground, equipment or fixtures/fittings; deliberate hitting of stumps, deliberate throwing of cricket bat; wilful damage to ground; wilful damage to dressing room or windows; wilful damage to sightscreens or other equipment.
(b) Showing dissent at an umpire’s decision by word or action; any level of dissent that is worthy of a report: such as a batsman excessively delaying departure from the pitch or clearly disagreeing verbally or gesturally with a decision, but which is not insulting or offensive to an umpire; a bowler either by word or gesture doing likewise.
(c) Using language that is obscene, offensive or insulting and/or making an obscene gesture; bad language, particularly that which is audible from the middle of the field to the boundary (or vice versa) or an unambiguous gesture which is clearly visible.
(d) Excessive appealing;
Sustained multiple appealing from a single delivery; clear evidence that fielders are appealing knowing that the batsman is not out.
(e) Charging or advancing towards an umpire in an aggressive manner when fielders and/or the wicketkeeper running towards an umpire when appealing.

1.1 The umpires must agree that a Level 1 breach has occurred.
1.2 On the first occasion, the umpires summon the captain of the offending player and issue a first and final warning which applies to all members of that team for, and lasts for the rest of the match.
1.3 However, if anyone in that team has already committed a Level 2, 3 or 4 offence during the match, the warning procedure for a Level 1 offence outlined in 1.2 above shall be dispensed with, and any Level 1 breach by any member of the same side will result in 5 penalty runs immediately being awarded to the opposing side. (See 1.4 1.4 On the second and any subsequent occasions that a Level 1 offence is committed, the umpires award five penalty runs to the opposing team.
1.5 Any official warning or award of penalty runs must be reported by the umpires in a joint report to the League or Governing Body.

Disciplinary breach at Level 2

(a) Showing serious dissent at an umpire’s decision by word or action; more serious dissent at a decision which is significantly more sustained than at Level 1 or which involves insulting or offensive language to an umpire.
(b) Inappropriate and deliberate physical contact between players in the course of pushing, tripping, barging or any other inappropriate and deliberate contact.
(c) Throwing the ball at or near a player, umpire or official in an inappropriate and dangerous manner; a breach will have occurred if the umpires consider this to have been done deliberately rather than through the normal course of play.
(d) Using language or gesture that is obscene or of a serious insulting nature to another player, umpire, referee, team official or spectator; bad language, particularly that which is audible from the middle of the field to the boundary (or vice versa) or an unambiguous gesture which is clearly visible, which is significantly more sustained or obscene or insulting than at Level 1.

2.1 The umpires must agree that a Level 2 breach has occurred.
2.2 The umpires immediately award five penalty runs to the opposing team on every occasion that such a breach occurs.
2.3 The umpires warn the captain that any future breach of a Level 1 offence by any member of his team will immediately result in penalty runs, with the warning procedure in Level 1 dispensed with.
2.4 Each occurrence must be reported by the umpires in a joint report to the League or Governing Body.

Disciplinary breach at Level 3

(a) Intimidating an umpire;
Any act by a player, short of violence, which is intimidating towards an umpire, such as moving threateningly into his personal space, or moving towards an umpire in a threatening manner, or using language which is aimed at intimidating him.
(b) Threatening to assault another player, team official or spectator; any physical gesture or language which threatens an assault on the specified
(c) Using language or gesture that offends, insults, humiliates, intimidates, threatens, disparages or vilifies another person on the basis of that person’s race, religion or belief, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, gender, sexual orientation or background;
Using a physical gesture or language which satisfies the criteria above, but which is milder than what would be considered in Level 4 below.

3.1 The umpires must agree that a Level 3 breach has occurred.
3.2 The umpires summon the captain of the offending player, inform him that a Level 3 breach has occurred, and instruct the captain to remove the offending player from the field of play for a specified number of overs, as determined in 3.5 below. If the captain is the offending player or if the captain is unavailable, the umpires should summon the vice-captain or a senior player.
3.3 There will be no signal or brandishing of a card but the umpires must ensure that the scorers are informed. 
3.4 The umpires warn the captain that any future breach of a Level 1 offence by any member of his team will immediately result in Penalty Runs, with the warning procedure in Level 1 dispensed with.
3.5 The number of overs for which the offending player shall be temporarily suspended shall be 10 overs in a ‘time’ game.  In a limited-overs game, it should be one-fifth of the number of overs available. If the incident occurred off the fourth legal delivery of the third over, and an 8 over suspension were applied, then the suspension would be served after the fourth legal delivery of the over.  
3.6 Any overs lost during an unscheduled break in play will not count towards serving a player’s period of suspension. He must serve the prescribed period of absence from overs that are actually completed on the field.
3.7 If a member of the fielding side has been suspended, then he can return to the field of play immediately he has served his period of suspension, and he may bowl the next over immediately following his return. A substitute fielder is not permitted whilst he is off the field.
3.8 If a member of the batting side has been suspended, then he can return to bat at the fall of a wicket which occurs after he has served his period of suspension or he can return immediately or at any time before the next wicket falls, after he has served his period of suspension, in which case the batsman that he replaces is retired out. If nine wickets are down when a batsman is suspended, or during his period of suspension, then his team are all out.
3.9 If a player has not yet served his period of suspension when a team’s innings ends, then the period of suspension continues into the next innings.
3.10 The umpires shall award five penalty runs to the opposing side, and shall jointly report the incident to the League or Governing Body.

Disciplinary breach at Level 4

(a) Threatening an umpire; any physical gesture or language which threatens an assault on an umpire.
(b) Physical assault of another player, umpire, official or spectator; any physical assault that takes place on or off the field of play during the match.
(c) Any act of violence on the field of play; any act of violence on the field of play during the match.
(d) Using language or gesture that seriously offends, insults, humiliates, intimidates, threatens, disparages or vilifies another person on the basis of that person's race, religion or belief, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, gender, sexual orientation or background. A Level 1 offence by any member of his team will immediately result in penalty runs, with the warning procedure in Level 1 dispensed with.

4.5 If the offending player is a batsman, he is retired out, and if nine wickets are already down at the time of the offence, his team is all out.
4.6 The League or competition needs to stipulate the maximum number of players in a team that can be sent off (for example in a brawl involving several players), before the match is abandoned. MCC is suggesting that each team should contain at least seven remaining players. In these extremely rare circumstances, it will be for the League or Governing Body to decide on the result, based on the umpires’ report.
4.7 The umpires shall award five penalty runs to the opposing side and shall jointly report the incident to the League or Governing Body.
A player who commits a second or subsequent offence will only be punished with the appropriate sanction for that offence. The previous commission of another offence will not escalate the punishment to a higher level – unlike football, for example, where a second yellow card offence results in a red card. So a player could receive, for example, three Level 3 warnings during a game.
The only exception to this rule would be when, if a player has already received a Level 2, 3 or 4 sanction and then any member of his team commits a Level 1 offence, then the warning procedure is skipped and penalty runs would be awarded immediately.

Using Penalty runs as the only sanction – no suspensions

For breaches of Levels 1 and 2 above, follow the procedure for Level 1 – a first and final warning to the captain of the offending player on the first occasion, which is to the whole team and lasts for the whole match, and awarding five penalty runs to the opposing side for second or subsequent breaches (possible alternative – award 10 penalty runs for second or subsequent breaches). Umpires report all warnings and sanctions.
For breaches of Levels 3 and 4 above, immediately award five penalty runs to the opposing side for each breach (possible alternative – award 10 penalty runs for second or subsequent breaches). Umpires report all incidents.

Philosophy of umpiring

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 sanctions are intended primarily as deterrents. However, they are there to be used if the players’ behaviour breaches Levels 1-4 of the Code of conduct, and umpires should apply the sanctions where this occurs.