Cricket’s Palace Shield has decided on a momentous change, one of the most significant in its history spanning more than a century – it has given the go-ahead to a tie-up with the Northern Premier League.
Promotion and relegation between the two leagues will now come into immediate effect.
Morecambe and Lancaster were the bottom two sides in the Northern League last summer while Torrisholme finished third from bottom on their return to the Palace Shield Premier Division.
Palace Shield clubs approved the milestone change at a special meeting held at the BAC/EE Cricket Club, with a vote of around 80 per cent in favour.
The top two sides in the Palace Shield Premier Division will be eligible for promotion to the Northern League – the two lowest-place teams in the Northern League will be automatically relegated to the Palace Shield premier.
Promotion is described as optional for Palace Shield teams.
League secretary Dave Lever explained: “We have left it optional rather than automatic.
“It would be down to any club that is eligible to be promoted whether they wanted to go up – they may not want to travel longer distances in the Northern League or play in a competition that has different rules to the Palace Shield.”
Lever said the tie-up that has now been approved between the two leagues was a ‘big breakthrough’
He added: “People have talked about something like this for years and years and it has never happened, but now it has.”
Clubs finishing in the top two places in the Palace Shield premier will have until September 30 to decide whether they will make the step up, although they could come to a decision earlier than that.
It could lead to the situation where the relegated clubs will drop out of the Northern League one season, but could be saved the following year.
The move has been backed by the ECB and the Lancashire Cricket Board, the national governing body looking for all local leagues to operate with promotion and relegation which the Northern Premier League did not.
Bobby Denning, managing director of the LCB, said: “It is fantastic news that the two leagues have got this over the line and for that they deserve great credit.
“It is very exciting for the clubs in both leagues.”