Year Book 2018-19 Contents
Shrinking Silver Rook and the idea of a Minor League for Smaller Teams
What follows is an independent “web-editorial” view of things. Now is probably the time to start considering such things, rather than wait for an under-represented, possibly inquorate AGM to try to sort out whatever problems arise for 2019-20!
Shrinking Silver Rook
There are currently 29 teams in the league, one less than last season, split 12:12:5 between divisions 1 to 3. There are concerns that a further reduction of teams in the Yorkshire league might occur, if not for 2019-20 then perhaps for 2020-21, and potentially leave the Silver Rook (division 3) with too few teams for it to go ahead, meaning a small number of teams would have to be turned away if no adjustment were made to counter this.
To adjust the present league structure so that teams in too small a division can be preserved involves either
1) combining two divisions to form a larger single division, which is precluded due to the lack of extra match weekends in the calendar, or
2) reducing the size of higher divisions, which might involve some teams having to move down despite not being formally relegated.
Twelve teams in most divisions has been the traditional preference (though it is not laid down in the Rules, league structure and organisation being mainly left to the decision of the AGM). Opportunities for other forms of weekend chess have over the years increased massively, so maybe there is a case for moving toward 11 teams as the target number per division, in order to feed teams down into division 3, and even to move after that to 10 teams. (10 teams require two less match weekends.) More teams (re-)joining later would allow expansion back to 11, or 12.
An AGM can, of course, restructure the league in a way involving movement of teams between divisions in addition to normal promotion and relegation, but if affected clubs were absent from the AGM, then the meeting might feel reluctant to make such changes. Equally, absentee clubs might feel aggrieved if such actions were taken. An alternative way the AGM could attempt to constructively manage shrinkage of the league is to consider the second idea of adding a Minor League for smaller teams.
Loss of the Silver Rook would not, of course, imply the imminent collapse of the YCA in totality. In 1914 the number of team competitions (not connected then by promotion and relegation) increased to three, but shrank back to two in 1929. In 1959 the number returned to three with the formation of the Silver Rook which then folded in 1966. In 1973 it was back to three with the re-birth of the Silver Rook. In 1978 it increased further to four, with the advent of the A. G. Sunderland Cup (division 4). From 2003, the A. G. Sunderland was detached from the league structure as such, being rehashed as more of a “fun event” to keep it alive, and ended in 2010. Now, in 2019, there are worries that the Silver Rook will fold, taking us back to the where we were in 1966, and about when I started participating – still before promotion and relegation were introduced. Numbers of teams in league divisions since 1992 were as follows (2004 data missing):
Minor League for Smaller Teams
The main reason for loss of teams is probably a reduction in numbers of players available, and adjusting division sizes cannot prevent that loss, though shortage of potential captains can also be a problem. Accordingly, Andrew Zigmond is considering proposing an additional “Minor” league for smaller teams, possibly 6 players per team, but more probably 5 (to fit in one car). Obviously, in the first season there would probably not be more than one “division”. As things are envisaged, player eligibility would still be such that playing in the top half of a team in the main 8-player league would preclude playing in the Minor league. Thus the Minor league would continue hierarchically below the lowest division of the 8-player league for player-eligibility purposes.
However, there would be no promotion and relegation between the two leagues, though teams could switch from one league to the other, and new teams could enter either league. Thus a dwindling Silver Rook team could switch to the Minor League to avoid folding completely.
Such a Minor League might attract teams from some smaller clubs which cannot envisage entering the main Yorkshire league, so there might be teams in the Minor League which were stronger than those in the bottom division of the main league. That could be avoided, if it were perceived as a problem, by admitting to the Minor League only teams from the CMs (clubs) represented in the main league. In time, the Minor League could expand to two or more divisions.
Clubs which have participated in the past might re-enter at 5-player level. Scarborough, Barnsley and Rotherham come to mind. Of course, such “new” teams might drain players from existing teams.
Potential operational problems might surface after the competition had started, meaning Rules might need to be refined.