When Alan Carter steps onto the field to take charge of Sunday’s Jack Hampshire Cup final he will be adding another entry on his umpiring CV which spans 50 seasons.
And it is fitting that Liversedge is the venue for the clash between Birstall and Yeadon because it was the ground where he officiated in his first major final in 1974.
On that occasion it was the Heavy Woollen Cup final with Hanging Heaton beating Kirkburton by 135 runs.
That match also created another first for Carter. “It was the one and only time that my wife Betty has been to a match to see me umpire, but she left by 3pm.”
But Betty has given him great support and allowed him to pursue a time-consuming occupation that is in its 50th season and showing no signs of ending.
He said: “Even though I am 72 I still feel fit, my reflexes are fine and I still enjoy umpiring. I am not planning to retire and I know I wouldn’t have been able to go on as long as I have without Betty’s backing.
“Our main holidays were planned around my umpiring appointments and I used up days of my holiday entitlement from British Gas to take charge of midweek games."
Carter was 22 when he decided that he wasn’t good enough to play cricket so he opted. to umpire.
However, it was long into his umpiring career that he actually realised he was good enough, “But by then the umpiring bug had got to me,” he joked.
His umpiring career started in1970 when he went along to the Dewsbury Club and Institute to a recruitment session for the Dewsbury & District League.
He recalls: “There was no written or oral exam, an official simply stood up and said, that’s the signal for a bye, that’s the signal for a six and once he had gone through the set I was told I was ready to umpire.
“It was actually 18 months before I saw a copy of the Laws of Cricket. If I had an issue, I would go into WH Smith and locate a copy of Wisden. The laws were printed in the back so I would look up the one I wanted and put the book back on the shelf because it was expensive even in those days.”
Amazingly, Carter did not take an umpiring exam until 1993 and by then he had taken charge of finals of the Priestley Cup, Priestley Shield and Heavy Woollen Cup.
“I wanted to join the Minor Counties panel and to do that I had to take the ACU&S Level Two examination to stand. Things were certainly different for umpires then,” he recalls.
Carter took charge of his first Dewsbury & District League cup final in 1971 and decided to take a step up the following season by joining the Central Yorkshire League.
The Central Yorkshire League was a really good competition with some outstanding players, I learned so much simply from talking to players and club officials in the bar after games. Sadly, it is something that has been lost from the current game."
"There were players like Harry Atkinson at Hanging Heaton and Tony Leighton at Liversedge who knew so much about the game and it was good to be able to talk cricket with them.”
After four seasons, Carter joined the Yorkshire League panel. “It was great to be able to umpire on some of the best grounds in the county,” he recalls “but it was pretty soulless at Headingley or Scarborough with just a handful of spectators in the ground.”
By 1980 he was seriously considering giving up but decided to apply to join the Bradford League He was soon officiating with likes of Derek Shuttleworth, John Hardaker and Ernest Jones, three umpires who were held in high esteem.
“They were characters and weren’t afraid to stamp their personality on the game. That is another thing that is missing today. Maybe that is because umpires fear being marked down by captains.
“Things are so different now and it is a pity that there isn’t the same relationship between umpires and players,” Carter said.
Apart from two short spells in the Huddersfield League in 1999 and 2018, Carter has come to be acknowledged as one of the Bradford League’s best umpires and has served as appointments secretary and chairman for the Bradford League Umpires Association
He has handled three Priestley Cup finals in 1987, 2004 and 2012, plus two Priestley Shield finals in 1985 and 2011. Earlier this season he umpired the T20 Cup final for the fifth time.
“You only used to get the Priestley Cup final once, so I feel privileged to have been appointed three times. It is an honour to umpire any final and to be chose on Sunday for the Jack Hampshire final is something I am hugely delighted about.”
Carter umpired his second Heavy Woollen Cup final in 1997 when Windhill defeated Hanging Heaton. “I remember it well. Windhill were a top team at that time and had Liam Botham playing that day. It was fiercely contested and a bit of a test.”
His performances led to him being in charge of two Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy finals in 1993 and 2002.
During his three years on the Minor Counties panel he handled two-day games at Cheshire, Northumberland, Cumberland, Staffordshire and Lincolnshire.
From 1988 to 2004 he was on the panel officiating at Yorkshire’s second team games. It gave him the opportunity to stand with First Class umpires.
“The best one for me was umpiring with Dickie Bird in a match at Harrogate. He was probably the best umpire in the world at the time,” he said.
“I would get to the ground at 9am each morning and Dickie was already fully changed and sat in the dressing room ready to go out.
“It was a great experience to go on to the field with him. He was so supportive and even signed a couple of his books for me.”
As well as having a deep love for cricket, Carter has also been involved in football and has received a Long Service award from the Fooball Association for 50 years service.
As a referee he progressed to being a linesman on the old Central League, the competition where the reserve teams of Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton used to play, before becoming an assessor.
He goes around monitoring the progress of the new crop of referees in the Northern Counties East League, Unibond League and National League North. His most recent assignment was at Guiseley on Tuesday night for their 3-1 win over Spennymoor.
He said: “It is always good when the end of season list of promoted referees comes out and you see ones you have been watching progress.”
Football has an abundant supply of young officials climbing through the ranks but the same isn’t true of cricket.
“We need to make umpiring more attractive,” Carter said. “People are put off by the criticism that is directed at umpires and the amount of time it takes up.
“But today an umpire starting out as a 22-year-old as I did can go a long way. There is now a pathway they can follow to get to the top.
“It is vitally important for the game to attract more umpires. We need younger people to come and have a go. I have had 50 wonderful seasons and see many fine players and great games from the best view in the house.”
Interview: Alan Birkinshaw
Pictures: Ray Spencer