CRICKET chiefs have awarded the Wessex Internet Dorset League brand-new ECB Premier League status from the 2024 season onwards.

Next summer will see a restructuring of the Dorset League (DCL) following its acceptance as the 32nd ECB Premier League in the country.

Currently, the Dorset League contains eight tiers from the Premier League to County Division Seven.

Echosport understands the structure of Dorset’s new ECB Premier League is yet to be finalised.

Clubs must attain certain levels in a range of criteria focussed on ground facilities and future sustainability in order for their first team to compete in the top divisions.

READ MORE: Dorset League expands to eight divisions

All clubs will continue to be accommodated in an ‘all-through’ league where teams can gain promotion based on performance, although facilities will once again be taken into account the higher a team progresses.

The new structure will initially see a reduction in the number of teams in the top two divisions because of the criteria set.

It is hoped a return towards ten-team divisions will begin in 2026, when clubs have had more time to attain the necessary standards.

The move is aimed at halting the talent drain of Dorset’s best cricketers towards the Hampshire and Southern Leagues, the latter of which is already an approved ECB Premier League.

In the long-term, league chiefs are targeting a greater number of players in the county team to have been picked from the Dorset League.

Cricket Dorset managing director, Ben Skipworth, said: “This is a massively exciting development in the grassroots game and should provide a highly competitive environment for our best club players to thrive.

“It is a testament to the efforts of the committee, especially Alan Graham, to finally realise this level of league being in place in the county.”

DCL chairman, Peter Constable, added: “I’m really pleased that Dorset has finally been accredited with being an ECB Premier League after many years of hard work, not just by members of the management committee but also member clubs in raising the standard of facilities, grounds and playing strength to get to the level required by the ECB.

“We understand there will be some upheaval initially but hope this will soon be behind us as the whole league structure settles down in future seasons.

“It is vital that we don’t forget the smaller clubs with teams in the lower divisions, as they are pivotal to the survival of cricket in the county and gives all players, whatever their age or ability a place to play.”

Jez Allman, Chief Commercial Officer at Wessex Internet, said: “We would like to congratulate the Wessex Internet Dorset Cricket League for this significant and exciting news.

“As a company, Wessex Internet strives to improve the lives of people in rural Dorset.

“This achievement aligns our ambitions as clubs across the county will have the ability to retain young talented players within the league structure, allowing Dorset Cricket to go from strength to strength.”