The extent of the dire threat to the future of cricket’s Northern League has been starkly underlined with the revelation that 10 of the 13 member clubs have applied to join the Fosters Lancashire League in time for the 2017 season.
Blackpool, Fleetwood, St Annes, Chorley, Leyland, champions Morecambe, Lancaster, Netherfield, Darwen and bottom club Preston have all applied to link up with an expanded Lancashire League, which will have promotion and relegation the season after next.
That leaves only three clubs from the Northern League who have NOT applied - Penrith, Barrow and Kendal, all based in Cumbria.
Garstang, of the Palace Shield, also want a piece of the Lancashire League action.
The Ribblesdale League is set to be affected too.
Seven clubs from that competition have applied to join the Lancashire League - Clitheroe, Great Harwood, Baxenden, Whalley, Barnoldswick, Settle and Salesbury.
That makes 18 clubs in all, vying for an extra 10 places in an expanded Lancashire League.
Suggestions that Lytham, of the Liverpool and District Competition, had applied proved unfounded.
There were originally 29 ‘expressions of interest’
The deadline for applications was midnight on September 30.
The Northern League will stay as it is for 2016 - with some likely rule changes - and what happens from 2017 onwards is bound to be the subject of debate at a meeting of the competition scheduled for Monday night.
A Lancashire League spokesman said: “We have now begun the process of visiting grounds, and representatives of the clubs will be invited to meet with members of the League expansion sub-committee to discuss their applications in more detail.
“The dates for these meetings will be announced in the near future.
“After completion of this process, the sub-committee will recommend the clubs who they consider should be elected in 2017.”
The Northern League is threatened with losing its ‘premier’ status from 2017 unless it brings in promotion and relegation, which is why 10 clubs have decided to apply for the Lancashire League because they want to play in the highest standard possible.
So far the Northern League has yet to say whether they have promotion and relegation proposals - without them their prestige is at stake and why so many are seemingly prepared to jump ship.
It is not just its premier standing at risk, but possibly its very existence after 60 years.