"Minor" Counties

Discussion about all aspects of the ECF County Championships.
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Joey Stewart
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"Minor" Counties

Postby Joey Stewart » Mon Jun 28, 2010 10:19 pm

It makes me laugh somewhat, to see these 'so called' weak county teams fielding squads of players which are stronger than some of the open teams.
Anyhow, I think it is about time there is some sort of regulation brought in to try and make it somewhat more fair for the genuine small counties who have to suffer at the hands of those open teams who are not brave enough to play in the competition they should be in.

At the very least it would be nice to know what is actually required to qualify one as a minor county team so I could know why it is that such good teams keep cropping up in this competition and winning year after year.
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IM Jack Rudd
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Re: "Minor" Counties

Postby IM Jack Rudd » Mon Jun 28, 2010 10:29 pm

Funnily enough, the rules for what qualifies a county as a minor county are found in the rules for the county championships. The relevant rules are:

D2. Each union has the right to nominate two teams for the national stages in Open, U180, U160, U140, U120 and U100.
D3. Any union which has 5 or more teams completing their fixtures without defaulting a match in a union championship, has the right to nominate three entries to the national stages of that championship. The national controller may give a dispensation if the last round of fixtures could not be completed because of inclement weather.
D4. Each Union has the right to nominate two teams for the Final Stages of the Minor Counties Championship.
D5. The teams participating in or qualified for the Final Stages of the Open championship for the current season may not enter the Minor Counties Championship.

Sean Hewitt

Re: "Minor" Counties

Postby Sean Hewitt » Tue Jun 29, 2010 6:09 am

Joey - don't you ever bother to find things out for yourself?

The key rule is that the average grade of a minor county must be below 180.

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Re: "Minor" Counties

Postby Richard Bates » Tue Jun 29, 2010 6:29 am

Sean Hewitt wrote:Joey - don't you ever bother to find things out for yourself?

The key rule is that the average grade of a minor county must be below 180.


Just as a matter of interest, was the current 180 figure an upwards revision following the grading changes?

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Re: "Minor" Counties

Postby Sean Hewitt » Tue Jun 29, 2010 7:35 am

Richard Bates wrote:
Sean Hewitt wrote:Joey - don't you ever bother to find things out for yourself?

The key rule is that the average grade of a minor county must be below 180.


Just as a matter of interest, was the current 180 figure an upwards revision following the grading changes?


No, there was no uplift. I think the comment was that an average of U180 under the old grades meant that all but the very best Open teams qualified for the Minor Counties - which was a bit daft.

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Re: "Minor" Counties

Postby David Sedgwick » Tue Jun 29, 2010 8:19 am

Sean Hewitt wrote:
Richard Bates wrote:
Sean Hewitt wrote:Joey - don't you ever bother to find things out for yourself?

The key rule is that the average grade of a minor county must be below 180.

Just as a matter of interest, was the current 180 figure an upwards revision following the grading changes?

No, there was no uplift. I think the comment was that an average of U180 under the old grades meant that all but the very best Open teams qualified for the Minor Counties - which was a bit daft.

The Rules regarding eligibility for the Minor Counties Championship have caused a lot of controversy since the competition was introduced in 1982. The present system, namely a limit on the average grade, seems to have had wider acceptance than anything which had gone before.

However, the intention was that counties which had no realistic chance of winning the Open Championship should be competitive in the Minor. By 2009 it was apparent that a limit of 180 in terms of old grades was a little too high to meet this criterion. Hence the SCCU, when submitting their suggested changes to the nominal grading limits for other Divisions, specifically proposed that the limit for the Minor should be unchanged - in effect a small reduction.

I quote the following from the SCCU Paper for the April 2009 ECF Council Meeting:

"In the case of the Minor Counties Championship, the current “average U180 limit” appears to be insufficiently restrictive, with few of the relevant teams being able to get close to it. Accordingly no change in nominal terms is proposed."

This was accepted by Council.

Good luck to both Middlesex and Hertfordshire in the forthcoming Minor Counties Championship Final.

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Re: "Minor" Counties

Postby Alex Holowczak » Tue Jun 29, 2010 8:38 am

The MCCU has a different format altogether (which is possibly what caused Joey's initial confusion).

The MCCU tends to have 8 teams in its Open Championship, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Shropshire, Lincolnshire and Worcestershire. These are split into two divisions of 4, with promotion and relegation between the two. So, 3/4 in Division One (if you like) go into the Open, and 2/4 in Division Two go into the Minor. Presumably a county winning the Minor Division who is over the grade limit will be ineligible. However, it also means that 4th place in the Open Division doesn't qualify for the minor at all. In this regard, winning the Minor Division the year before means you can't play in the Minor the year after, because you generally have to spend the season losing to Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Greater Manchester.

That said, I don't think the MCCU has the situation Joey describes; the Minor Counties tend to be weaker than the traditionally strong three counties.

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Re: "Minor" Counties

Postby Mick Norris » Tue Jun 29, 2010 9:18 am

Alex Holowczak wrote:The MCCU has a different format altogether (which is possibly what caused Joey's initial confusion).

The MCCU tends to have 8 teams in its Open Championship, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Shropshire, Lincolnshire and Worcestershire. These are split into two divisions of 4, with promotion and relegation between the two. So, 3/4 in Division One (if you like) go into the Open, and 2/4 in Division Two go into the Minor. Presumably a county winning the Minor Division who is over the grade limit will be ineligible. However, it also means that 4th place in the Open Division doesn't qualify for the minor at all. In this regard, winning the Minor Division the year before means you can't play in the Minor the year after, because you generally have to spend the season losing to Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Greater Manchester.

That said, I don't think the MCCU has the situation Joey describes; the Minor Counties tend to be weaker than the traditionally strong three counties.


We abolished promotion and relegation at Saturday's MCCU AGM - teams can elect to play in either Division 1 to try and qualify for the ECF Open or Division 2 to qualify for the ECF Minor

In the last few years, I'm not sure that promotion has been rigidly enforced, I remember the season when Worcs entered Div 1 by accident, and certainly Derbys acquitted themselves well this season in Div 1
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Re: "Minor" Counties

Postby Alex Holowczak » Tue Jun 29, 2010 9:27 am

Oh, OK. In that case, I sense the big three will be in the Open (and qualify by default), and the other five will go into the minor counties, assuming their grade is below 180.

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Re: "Minor" Counties

Postby David Sedgwick » Tue Jun 29, 2010 10:33 am

Alex Holowczak wrote:Presumably a county winning the Minor Division who is over the grade limit will be ineligible.

The average under 180 grading limit only applies to the National Stages of the Minor Counties Championship. What happens in the Union Qualifying Stages is within reason a matter for each Union, subject to the requirement that a team which has qualified for the National Stages of the Open Division can't be nominated for the Minor Counties Championship instead.

In the SCCU, all six of our competing counties play in a single Open Division. In 2009-10, Sussex, Kent and Essex filled the top three places and qualified for the National Stages of the Open. Middlesex and Hertfordshire finished fourth and fifth respectively and qualified for the Minor. Surrey, who finished last, missed out altogether.

However, both Middlesex and Hertfordshire would have been over 180 on average during the SCCU competition, at least in certain matches. Hence they will have had to field less than full strength teams in the Minor. As I said in my earlier post, that is the whole point of the average under 180 limit; it is designed to ensure that counties in the Minor compete on reasonably equal terms.

The MCCU has a different structure; their eight Open Division teams are divided, by one means or another, into separate Open and Minor sections. Two or three years ago the SCCU queried whether they had the then necessary seven teams to entitle them to three nominations for the National Stages of the Open, as only four (possibly in future three) of their teams could actually qualify. Cyril Johnson, then as now the Controller, ruled that all eight teams counted for this purpose. However, it one of his better moves, he proposed a rule change reducing the minimum number for three nominations from seven teams to five, thus keeping the SCCU happy by giving us a third place as well.

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Re: "Minor" Counties

Postby Brian Valentine » Tue Jun 29, 2010 1:34 pm

It is frustrating that a true Minor County can meet a "Major" county in the final stages that merely has jettisoned a few stronger players, who may have been unavailble anyway. It is not easy to fix this, but maybe there could be some check back to the average gradings in the qualifying competition?

No sour grapes from Bedfordshire this year, we didn't do well enough to qualify even playing against other true minor counties.

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Re: "Minor" Counties

Postby David Sedgwick » Tue Jun 29, 2010 2:05 pm

Brian Valentine wrote:It is frustrating that a true Minor County can meet a "Major" county in the final stages that merely has jettisoned a few stronger players, who may have been unavailble anyway. It is not easy to fix this, but maybe there could be some check back to the average gradings in the qualifying competition?

No sour grapes from Bedfordshire this year, we didn't do well enough to qualify even playing against other true minor counties.

That would preclude the SCCU from fielding any teams in the Minor. All six counties are initially seeking to qualify for the National Stages of the Open Division and have a realistic prospect of so doing. They'll all want to field their strongest available players in the Union Qualifying Stages.

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Re: "Minor" Counties

Postby Richard Bates » Tue Jun 29, 2010 2:39 pm

David Sedgwick wrote:
Brian Valentine wrote:It is frustrating that a true Minor County can meet a "Major" county in the final stages that merely has jettisoned a few stronger players, who may have been unavailble anyway. It is not easy to fix this, but maybe there could be some check back to the average gradings in the qualifying competition?

No sour grapes from Bedfordshire this year, we didn't do well enough to qualify even playing against other true minor counties.

That would preclude the SCCU from fielding any teams in the Minor. All six counties are initially seeking to qualify for the National Stages of the Open Division and have a realistic prospect of so doing. They'll all want to field their strongest available players in the Union Qualifying Stages.


I suppose that depends whether there might be any other counties who might consider affiliating to the SCCU if they felt they had a chance of MInor qualification/nomination. Although if one was going down this sort of route it would make more sense perhaps if counties were required to 'self-define' themselves as Minor counties at the start of the year. But then that could decimate the Open competition if some of the weaker unions opted out.

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Joey Stewart
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Re: "Minor" Counties

Postby Joey Stewart » Tue Jun 29, 2010 3:44 pm

Sean Hewitt wrote:Joey - don't you ever bother to find things out for yourself?


I have always thought that asking individuals with great experience in the matter qualifies as 'finding out'.

It does seem that this system, created to lend a bit of support to the smaller and weaker counties, seems to be rife for abuse - in fact not even abuse, as the open level entrants are not doing anything wrong other then taking advantage of bad grading limits to add another trophy to the cabinet.

I think they should just scrap the minor counties and force everyone to either enter the open (where most of them belong) or to enter one of the graded sections, such as under 180.
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Richard Bates
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Re: "Minor" Counties

Postby Richard Bates » Tue Jun 29, 2010 4:38 pm

Joey Stewart wrote:
Sean Hewitt wrote:Joey - don't you ever bother to find things out for yourself?


I have always thought that asking individuals with great experience in the matter qualifies as 'finding out'.

It does seem that this system, created to lend a bit of support to the smaller and weaker counties, seems to be rife for abuse - in fact not even abuse, as the open level entrants are not doing anything wrong other then taking advantage of bad grading limits to add another trophy to the cabinet.

I think they should just scrap the minor counties and force everyone to either enter the open (where most of them belong) or to enter one of the graded sections, such as under 180.


They're not "taking advantage of bad grading limits" (this year anyway, possibly in the past) - to play in the Minor Counties requires the stronger counties to put out substantially weakened teams. Middlesex put out a team averaging over 200 in one match earlier in the season! Shaving 20pts a board is no mean feat.

You also don't seem to have appreciated the point that in the SCCU there is no distinction between "Minor" and "Major" Counties - everyone is attempting to qualify for the Open. Nomination for the Minor Counties is a consolation prize.

Clearly under the "average" regulations the larger counties in the competition will still have an advantage - the greater number and range of players to choose from will make it far easier to put out a team very close to the maximum permitted average. Also there is the potential problem of "sacrificing" one or possibly two low boards to enable the higher boards to have a far higher average. Perhaps there is the potential for refinement eg. minimum number of players below 180 or maximum number above 190 etc.

It would be interesting to know, however, whether the SCCU really does have far significantly greater overall strength (in depth) or whether there are other factors (consistently competitive matches, better/easier transport links?) which also mean that the strength within the Union is better unlocked.


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