In the course of researching my article for The Cricketer (March 2017)* on the state of recreational umpiring, one thing that became apparent was the variance in training courses, both in cost and duration. Some ACOs opt for running courses in the evenings over a 6–8 week period. Others go for a high-intensity format, with training limited to two days, often over consecutive weekends.
Cost is potential stumbling block: some can be £80 per person. Again, it’s worth doing a bit of research, as there are often rebates available. For example, the Herefordshire ACO charges £80 for an Umpire Level 1 course, but the local Marches League will reimburse £40 if the newly qualified umpire goes on to stand in ten league games, and a further £40 if he or she stands in three county junior games—making it free of charge. Alternatively, it’s worth looking at neighbouring ACOs: the South East Wales ACO, by comparison, charges £30 per person.
The ECB provide a course finder on the ECB website. After selecting the type of course you’re looking for and clicking “View Events”, it’s best to press “Search” without selecting county, town, or country: there aren’t that many results anyway, and keeping the options open means you may find nearby courses better suited to your circumstances.
This lack of standardisation might initially be somewhat irritating, but on reflection it’s useful, providing a degree of flexibility for potential candidates. It’s to be hoped that the increased integration of the ACO with the ECB, voted in during January 2017, doesn’t completely remove such variability in the name of efficiency. Overhauling the course finder, however, would be a worthwhile task for the ECB’s IT team: searching by postcode would seem a clear improvement that could be implemented.
At the other end of the spectrum, there’s much that clubs can do to help. It should be pretty obvious that if there are x teams, a minimum of x umpires are needed. A question, then, for each club: are they providing as many umpires as they field XIs? If not, offering to subsidise training for some of their club members would be a welcome gesture of support for the officials.
*Single issues of the The Cricketer are currently £4.50 online or £4.95 in-store. Alternatively, you can save a few quid by opting for a subscription, which by my calculations makes one issue in six effectively free. You may also be able to get a bottle of wine, a calendar and a diary thrown in, if their “hat-trick” offer is still going.