Europe expands to 30 members, as Guernsey promoted to Associate and Bulgaria, Estonia and Turkey joi
Guernsey became the 34th country to be granted Associate Membership at the ICC Annual Conference held this week at the ICC headquarters in Dubai. A further three countries from the Europe region, Bulgaria, Estonia and Turkey, were granted Affiliate Membership, taking the ICC's total member count to 104.
Europe now has 30 members plus Full Member England. This number is made up of 12 Associates including Ireland, the Netherlands and Scotland and 18 Affiliates.
The decision to promote Guernsey to Associate status comes only three year's after it was granted Affiliate Membership in 2005. In this time cricket on the island has gone from strength to strength both on and off the field.
Of particular note is the success of the national youth sides, which emphasise the quality of the youth development programme that the Guernsey Cricket Board (GCB) has put in place. In 2007 Guernsey won the ICC European U/15 Division 2 Championship beating nine other European Associate and Affiliate Members, and finished second and third in the European U/19 Division 2 and U/23 Division 2 respectively.
Following on from this success, this year for the first time, Guernsey and its Channel Island counterpart Jersey will participate in the Division 1 Championship at U/17 and U/15 levels against Europe's top Associates Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Scotland.
In addition, off the field of play, the GCB was selected to host this year's ICC European Division 2 Championship, after it hosted an extremely successful U/23 Division 2 tournament in 2007.
Such achievements culminated in a successful inspection visit from the ICC in May when ICC Global Development Manager Matthew Kennedy and Associate Director Samir Inamder assessed Guernsey's suitability for promotion to Associate Membership. The GCB impressed with its excellent facilities, strong development programme and high level of cricket, and this was reported back to the voting Members of the ICC at this week's annual conference.
For Guernsey the promotion means that local cricket will receive a huge cash injection from ICC - which is already earmarked for investment back into the development of the sport - and the potential for the island to qualify for global international tournaments, including the ICC World Cricket League.
Commenting on the news ICC Regional Development Manager, Richard Holdsworth said "Cricket is a well established sport in Guernsey and it is fitting that after only three years of ICC Affiliate Membership that the country has been promoted to an Associate Member.
"The infrastructure on the island has developed well in recent years with good support of local sponsors and government organisations. Their excellent facilities including grass pitches and a new indoor cricket centre will help them to further develop at International level."
He added, "This is a credit to the hard work of the Guernsey Cricket Board and in particular it's Chairman David Piesing. Guernsey Cricket should be very proud of itself."
Elsewhere, Bulgaria, Estonia and Turkey were the only countries to apply for Affiliate Membership this year and all three applications were successful.
The Bulgarian Cricket Federation (BCF) was founded in 2002 when it became recognised by the Bulgarian Ministry of Sport as one of its ‘new' sports. With the aim of developing the game throughout the country the BCF formed a development programme which puts youth development as its main priority.
Based at Bulgaria's National Sports Academy in capital city Sofia the BCF has six member clubs which compete in an annual league playing on some of Bulgaria's five grounds. It also has a national team and a development program for women's cricket.
The BCF has received support from ICC Europe since 2002 with the Bulgarian national team participating in the 2004 European Representatives Championship held in Slovenia.
The Estonian Cricket Association (ECA) was set up in 2001 by a small group of cricket enthusiasts and at the time had very little to its name. However over the past seven years it has developed and now has over 80 playing members, a figure which continues to grow and over 65 teams have visited from over 10 different countries.
Four domestic teams play in a national league and it also has a strong national team which is aspiring to compete in the ICC European Division 4 Championship in 2009. As part of its development program the ECA runs a winter coaching programme and has junior cricket at the top of its agenda with plans to run summer schools and Kwik Cricket tournaments.
Cricket in Turkey was recognised by the Turkish government in December 2006 when it became a member of Turkey's "Federation of Developing Sportsh". In order to promote and develop the game of cricket, the Turkish Cricket Board (TCB) was formed under this Federation.
The TCB has a national senior team which has its sights set on next year's ICC European Division 4 Championship. There are seven domestic teams, four of which are university based and play in two main tournaments each year.
All three countries will now receive funding and support from ICC to help them to continue to develop and grow the game.
Commenting on the successful applications, ICC Regional Development Manager Richard Holdsworth said, "Cricket in Bulgaria, Estonia and Turkey has developed well over a number of years. It is therefore very pleasing that ICC has accepted their applications and they now join the ICC family."
He added, "ICC Affiliate Membership will bring many opportunities for cricket to develop further in these countries. In addition ICC now being recognised as a full member of the International Olympic Committee will hopefully strengthen the culture of the sport in these new member countries."
New Associate Guernsey's next challenge will be to take on Europe's best at the ICC European U17 Division 1 Championship in Belfast, Northern Ireland. For live score updates and all the action from the ICC European Championships please visit the tournament pages of the ICC Europe website: www.icc-europe.org/ECC/DATABASE/TOURNAMENTS/currentyear.shtml