Over the years I have noticed that the Leeds evening league has grown in strength, especially on the top few boards. After looking at some comparison figures I am amazed how significant this has been.
I have taken 2009 as a base year to compare it with. Namely because this was the year the ECF grade enhancements took place.
I have checked grades of the top players who made appearances in that league that season and listed them below.
The increase in strength of the Leeds league is remarkable. See the table below. I have made similar comparisons with Bradford and Sheffield leagues over the same period. The Leeds league has clearly attracted a number of stronger players over the last 8 years but why could this be?
There is a theory that when the ECF calculated the grade enhancements in 2008 they increased lower grades over-generously compared to higher graded players. Over time those points would naturally shift back upwards and you should see an overall grading increase at the top end. This might explain the higher overall numbers in the 3 leagues chosen below but Leeds still far outperforms the Sheffield and Bradford leagues in increasing the higher graded players.
There are other factors that will help to attract a stronger league. The thriving University, high paid work moving to the city and better commuting allowing a wider catchment area. But this doesn’t seem to have harmed the Bradford league next door.
I believe the most significant benefit was introduced by Stuart Johnson around 10 years ago and the league has started to bear the fruit of its labours. The Leeds league plays league matches on Wednesday evenings while the Bradford league plays on Tuesday evenings. Stuart discussed plans with me which would arrange the league fixtures on different weeks to the Bradford league fixtures where feasible. I believe this has encouraged more Bradford league players to play in the Leeds league than ever before and the attraction for the stronger players is obvious. They have opportunities to play the strongest players in West Yorkshire most weeks and get the challenge they strive. It seems to have encouraged some significantly stronger players to make appearances in the league in recent years too.
The inter league collaboration has kissed new life into the Leeds league and made it possibly challenge the Sheffield league for strength at the top end. It surely cannot be too long before the city boasts a Woodhouse champion again.
Do you agree? Or do you have another theory?
Appearances by player grades comparison
Below is a snapshot of appearances by grade of leagues in Yorkshire in 2016 /2017
|League 2017||Over 200||190-199||180-189||170-179|