The Birmingham & District Premier Cricket League is the oldest club cricket league in the United Kingdom, formed in 1888. It was the first ECB Premier League, being designated such in 1998, and is one of the strongest of the ECB Premier Leagues.
The Birmingham League traditionally covered North Worcestershire, South Staffordshire and North Warwickshire, much of which is now the conurbation of the West Midlands. Since 1998, with the introduction of the ECB Premier Leagues, the pyramid system, and feeder leagues in the four counties (Shropshire Premier Cricket League, Staffordshire Club Cricket Championship, Warwickshire Cricket League and Worcestershire County Cricket League), the catchment of the league has spread to include the whole of Shropshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire, as well as a large part of Staffordshire, although North Staffordshire clubs play in the North Staffordshire and South Cheshire League. Herefordshire clubs, who play in the Worcestershire County Cricket League, can also be promoted into the league.
The Birmingham and District Cricket League is the oldest club competition in the United Kingdom, beginning league matches in 1888. The Birmingham and District Cricket Association had actually formed eight years earlier in 1880, but only ran a successful, if not controversial, cup competition for those first few years. On Friday 30 November 1888, representatives from local cricket clubs gathered at the Queen's Arms Hotel, Easy Row, Birmingham and went about setting up the first Club Cricket League in the UK, being inspired by the success The Birmingham County Football Association had had in organising local football competition and fixtures. With some representatives needing to consult their own committees before pledging their commitment to the league, and one or two prominent local clubs not being present, it was not until a second meeting on Friday 14 December 1888 that the league was actually, officially formed. There were initially seven clubs who decided to trial the league format the following season. They were:
Those early days saw many changes in the league's club make-up:
Kings Heath moved to "The Reddings" Ground, joining with Moseley Cricket Club (and taking on that name). Another Kings Heath Club was formed later, but never became part of the Birmingham League set-up until the restructuring of Midlands Club cricket in 1998. Salters Cricket Club who played in Roebuck Lane, West Bromwich, and originated from the Spring Works of the same name, resigned from the league after just one season. In 1890, Wednesbury Cricket Club joined the league. In 1891, Smethwick Cricket Club, who had been involved in the Birmingham and District Cricket Association Cup competition in the 1880s, entered the league. Mitchells Cricket Club left the league between 1892 and 1896, due to some friction surrounding ineligible players, but shortly after they returned, they became Mitchells and Butlers Cricket Club when the two breweries amalgamated in 1898. In 1892, Small Heath Cricket Club joined the league and although their ground was amongst the best in the competition, the club was out of its depth in other aspects, and they resigned from the league 3 years later. In 1894, Warwickshire County Cricket Club entered the league after years of deliberation, but withdrew again in 1895 after being admitted to the County Championship. Over the next few years, the league's influence moved to the west, with Dudley Cricket Club joining the League in 1893, Stourbridge in 1894 and Kidderminster in 1895. Handsworth Wood who had performed creditably in the league until their Browne's Green ground was acquired by developers shortly after the First World War, spent one season playing at the County Ground, Edgbaston, but when no new ground could be found the following season either, they lost a narrow motion by the league (by one vote), and Old Hill Cricket Club replaced them in 1920. The Handsworth Wood Club folded shortly afterwards, handing their cash balance over to the league benevolent fund.
The second XI competition, perhaps stronger than any of the lower level 1st XI competitions which existed in the region until the restructuring of 1998, was formed in 1893.
The league was suspended for the First World War between 1914 and 1918, but continued to play through the Second World War, and the League, now comprising 10 clubs (Aston Unity, Dudley, Kidderminster, Mitchells and Butlers, Moseley, Old Hill, Smethwick, Stourbridge, Walsall, West Bromwich Dartmouth), stayed the same until 1975. In 1975, the league expanded again as Warwickshire and Worcestershire decided the strength of the league could be utilised. Warwickshire entered a 1st and 2nd XI (basically a 1st/2nd team side and a 2nd/colts side), whilst Worcestershire only entered a 1st XI and Duport Cricket Club (A Dudley-based Furniture making company club) played their 2nd XI fixtures. Whilst Warwickshire established themselves in the competition and won it on a few occasions, Worcestershire struggled, and two years later, Duport took on their 1st XI fixtures too, as they were forced to pull out of the league. Duport also struggled with the on-field standards, and when support from the company's Social Club was reduced they too were forced to pull out of the competition, and were replaced by another Worcester-based side in 1982, Worcester City. Many other changes took place in the league throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and they are summarised below:
|Year||Outgoing Club||Reason||Incoming Club|
|1977||Worcestershire||Struggled to field sides due to small County staff||Duport|
|1982||Duport||Works Social Club decreased funding and club struggled with the standard of cricket||Worcester City|
|1985||Dudley||Ground caved in and club was forced to fold||Coventry and North Warwicks|
|1990||Warwickshire||Struggled to commit to League cricket with increased County 2nd XI programme||Wolverhampton|
|1992||Worcester City||Club folded||Stratford|
|1995||Mitchells and Butlers||Brewery decided to sell off ground so club folded||Barnt Green|
In 1998 the Birmingham League included Promotion & relegation for the first time. The 12 teams of the Birmingham League formed the Premier Division, The 2 other big leagues (Midlands Combined Counties League & Midlands Club Cricket League) formed the lower divisions. Teams increased over time to 48 (4 1st XI divisions of 12 clubs: Premier, Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3, with accompanying 2nd XI divisions: Premier, Division 1, Division 2 West and Division 2 East). In 2017, under pressure from the ECB, the league's clubs voted to cut the league down to 2 divisions of 12 by 2019, and disband the 2nd XI competition.
Since being designated an ECB Premier League in 1998 (the first Premier Cricket League in the Country), several changes have occurred in the league's structure. Initially, the 12 clubs in the old Birmingham League made up the Premier Division, and a First Division, Second Division East and Second Division West were made up from clubs in the old Midlands Combined Counties League, the Worcestershire League, the Warwickshire League and the Staffs League. The Second Division East and Second Division West were later replaced by a Second Division and a Third Division.
Only one club was promoted in the first year of the new structure, which was Cannock while Aston Unity, a founder member of the league, were the first club to be relegated. Since 1999, two clubs have been relegated and two promoted each season.
Following the 2018 season the Second and Third divisions were abolished, along with all four 2nd XI divisions, and the league was reduced to two divisions. The relegated 1st and 2nd XIs now compete in the four West Midland county feeder leagues.
The winners of the four feeder leagues now enter a ‘round robin’ playoff at the end of each season with the top two teams being promoted (replacing the two relegated sides from Premier Division Two) and the bottom two going back to their feeder leagues.
For the 2020 season, the clubs in Premier Division One were intended to be: Barnt Green, Berkswell, Kidderminster, Knowle and Dorridge, Leamington Spa, Moseley, Ombersley, Shifnal, Shrewsbury, Smethwick, Walsall, and West Bromwich Dartmouth.
The clubs in Premier Division Two were intended to be: Barnards Green, Bridgnorth, Bromsgrove, Dorridge, Halesowen, Harborne, Himley, Kenilworth Wardens, Oswestry, Pelsall, Wem, Wolverhampton.
The 2020 competition was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A replacement competition was arranged for the later part of the season when cricket again became possible, but with its winners not to be regarded as official league champions.
Across the two divisions, the league currently includes:
7 Warwickshire clubs (Berkswell, Dorridge, Harborne, Kenilworth Wardens, Knowle and Dorridge, Leamington, Moseley)
6 Staffordshire clubs (Himley, Pelsall, Smethwick, Walsall, West Bromwich Dartmouth, Wolverhampton)
6 Worcestershire clubs (Barnards Green, Barnt Green, Bromsgrove, Halesowen, Kidderminster, Ombersley)
5 Shropshire clubs (Bridgnorth, Oswestry, Shifnal, Shrewsbury, Wem).
|1890||Moseley and West Bromwich Dartmouth*|
|1896||Walsall and Aston Unity*|
|1905||Dudley and Handsworth Wood*|
|1909||Moseley and Mitchells and Butlers*|
|1910||Aston Unity and Dudley*|
|1911||Mitchells and Butlers|
|1914||Mitchells and Butlers|
|1925||Mitchells and Butlers|
|1926||Mitchells and Butlers|
|1928||Mitchells and Butlers|
|1930||West Bromwich Dartmouth|
|1931||Mitchells and Butlers|
|1932||West Bromwich Dartmouth|
|1933||West Bromwich Dartmouth and Walsall*|
|1934||West Bromwich Dartmouth|
|1939||Aston Unity and Mitchells and Butlers|
|1941||West Bromwich Dartmouth|
|1942||West Bromwich Dartmouth|
|1943||West Bromwich Dartmouth|
|1944||West Bromwich Dartmouth|
|1945||West Bromwich Dartmouth|
|1947||Mitchells and Butlers|
|1948||West Bromwich Dartmouth|
|1953||West Bromwich Dartmouth|
|1954||Mitchells and Butlers|
|1955||West Bromwich Dartmouth|
|1958||West Bromwich Dartmouth|
|1965||West Bromwich Dartmouth|
|1966||Kidderminster and Walsall*|
|1971||West Bromwich Dartmouth|
|1973||Kidderminster and Moseley|
|1974||West Bromwich Dartmouth|
|1991||Coventry and North Warwickshire|
|1993||West Bromwich Dartmouth|
|2001||Stratford upon Avon|
|2009||Knowle and Dorridge|
|2014||West Bromwich Dartmouth|
|2017||Knowle and Dorridge|
|Clubs still in the League|
|17||West Bromwich Dartmouth[c]|
|2||Knowle and Dorridge|
|Clubs no longer in the League|
|8||Mitchells & Butlers[e]|
|Coventry and North Warwickshire|
|Stratford upon Avon|
|Coventry & North Warwicks||8||?||6||10||10||10||7||7||8||12|
|Knowle and Dorridge||4||7||3||3||6||7||2||3||1||2||5||10||3||5||3||4||1||2||5|
|Stratford upon Avon||6||?||2||1||11|
|West Bromwich Dartmouth||3||?||9||11||9||4||2||6||11||10||9||9||1||5||9||6||3||10|
Although there have been many notable feats throughout the league's history, one of the most difficult achievements for a batsman is to score over 1000 runs in a club league season. Only fourteen players have ever managed it in the top division of the Birmingham League, one of them twice:
|Alan Townsend||Mitchells and Butlers||1961||1106|
|Alan Townsend||Mitchells and Butlers||1970||1008|
|Colin Price||Aston Unity||1975||1093|
|Doug Slade||West Bromwich Dartmouth||1978||1407|
|Jonathan Wright||Old Hill||1993||1006|
|Andy Flower||West Bromwich Dartmouth||1995||1018|
|Grant Flower||Barnt Green||1995||1024|
|Kadeer Ali||West Bromwich Dartmouth||2015||1079|
|Alex Keath||Knowle and Dorridge||2015||1036|
|George Worker||Knowle and Dorridge||2017||1569|
The Birmingham and District Cricket League's strength as a competition has been proven throughout the years, by the presence of its clubs in the latter stages of the ECB National Club Cricket Championship (a cup Competition for all Clubs in the UK). Here are a list of clubs in the league structure who have won or been runners-up in the competition:
|Wolverhampton||1973||The Mote (Kent)||Winners|
|Moseley||1980||Gosport Borough (Hampshire)||Winners|
|Shrewsbury||1983||Hastings and St Leonards Priory (Sussex)||Winners|
|Old Hill||1984||Bishop's Stortford (Hertfordshire)||Winners|
|Old Hill||1985||Reading (Berkshire)||Winners|
|Old Hill||1987||Teddington (Middlesex)||Winners|
|Old Hill||1989||Teddington (Middlesex)||Runners-up(replay)|
|Old Hill||1993||West Bromwich Dartmouth (Staffordshire)||Winners|
|West Bromwich Dartmouth||1993||Old Hill (Staffordshire)||Runners-up|
|Barnt Green||2002||Saffron Walden (Essex)||Runners-up|
|Barnt Green||2005||Horsham (Sussex)||Runners-up|
|Shrewsbury||2011||Cambridge Granta (Cambridgeshire)||Winners|
Many well known international players have played in the Birmingham League over the years:
Ireland (& England)