David Banks believes the Southern Electric Premier League will be considerably weaker this season after Sarisbury Athletic were denied promotion to the top flight.
Their Allotment Road home was deemed unfit for the top division by league officials because their fifth strip – which is hardly ever used – leaves a boundary just two yards short of the minimum requirement of 50.
While the league has been restructured to four divisions for the 2013 campaign to incorporate new boys Basingstoke and North Hants, last season’s division two champions will now be unable to pit their skills against the cream of the region’s cricketers.
Instead, it will be Bournemouth, who have lost the majority of their better players and finished rock bottom of the premier division last term, who have been granted a stay of execution.
And Sarisbury skipper Banks believes it reduces the quality of the top division.
‘The fact that we missed out because the boundary is two yards too short on our outside wicket, which probably won’t even get used, seems a bit hard to take,’ said Banks.
‘But the rules are the rules, I suppose.
‘You usually get at least a couple of games called off every year, so we wouldn’t use that wicket anyway.
‘It’s a shame but the league is within their rights. It’s there in black and white.
‘But you would just like a little bit of flexibility about it or be given a bit of time.
‘The whole point of having premier league cricket is that you want the best sides in that league.
‘A club that is on the up, attracting good players and doing all the right things can’t play in the top division after earning the right to play there.
‘They want to play in the strongest league and I feel we are a much stronger side than Bournemouth.
‘Bournemouth have lost the Park brothers to New Milton but we’re a progressive club and I think we would be more of a challenge to sides in the top division.’
While the league rules on ground standards are in place for a reason, Sarisbury have since been given permission to extend the boundary by removing some of the trees in the adjacent wood.
But it’s too late for this season and means they have to take their place in the new division one – the second tier – and attempt to claim promotion once again.
Banks said: ‘Now we have to look ahead to next season and try to win it again.
‘The club have since got the go-ahead from the council to chop down a few trees and make it a bit bigger, but it’s too late for this year now.
‘We’ve done a lot of work over the past few years on the outfield, the pitches and the clubhouse.’
That leaves Havant and Ventnor in the premier division once again, Sarisbury alongside Burridge and Hambledon in division one, United Services in division two, while division three contains Portsmouth, new boys Portsmouth & Southsea and Havant II.