Filleigh’s first-team skipper Simon Prideaux has been explaining why the club had to take the painful decision to withdrawn from Tolchards Devon Cricket League B Division on the eve of a new season.

Filleigh finished fifth out of 10 in the B Division last season and were genuine promotion candidates well into the second half of the season.

The Deer Park club, who joined the Devon League in 2009, made steady progress through the divisions thanks to four promotions in eight seasons.

Prideaux, a three-time promotion-winning skipper, said the club had lost so many players since the end of last season it was not realistic to stay in the B Division.

Talks with the Devon League's management board produced an agreement to 'bend the rules' and allow the first XI to withdraw but permit the second XI to carry on in the H Division East.

Prideaux said the club appreciated how league officials had been sympathetic to their plight.

"The league rule is that if a club is in our situation they should remove their second XI and keep the first XI going," said Prideaux.

"Our circumstances meant that was not a realistic option for us because it is largely first XI players we are struggling for and it would not be fair to ask our second XI players to step up.

"Our second XI were relegated into the H Division East at the end of last season - and you cannot get any lower than that.

"Asking three or four 50-somethings and a group of eager but inexperienced youngsters to play five levels higher was not practical and could have been downright dangerous.

"The league were very sympathetic to our predicament. Now we have to retire to our bunker and rebuild."

Nick Rogers, the league chairman, said although the league rules had been bent, that at was the right thing to do.

"The executive believes that no purpose is served by exposing a young and inexperienced second XI, playing in the H Division, to B Division quality cricket," said Rogers.

"We strongly feel that both the club and the league together have a duty of care towards these players."

Prideaux said Filleigh will continue to play on Sundays in Division Two of the North Devon League and is very much a going concern.

"It is going to take us a while but we will rebuild and try to climb the Devon League again," said Prideaux.

Filleigh's problem was caused by the retirements and relocations of a number of players, coupled with restricted availability of senior players due to family or business commitments, among them Prideaux and his batsman brother Mark.

"Seven out of our squad of 14 from last season have gone and of the remainder very few can commit to every week," said skipper Prideaux.

Prideaux said another issue was the youth section at the club was not trickling players into the senior side in the numbers needed.

"A lot of our colts come to us from West Buckland School and once they leave there we lose them for good," said Prideaux.

"The only one in recent times who is still around is Jack Brazier and he has a long-term injury that will keep him out until July.

"It has been a perfect storm really. Players have retired, nothing is coming through from below, we are out on a limb up here, which makes recruiting difficult, and on top of that we have lost our groundsman and the person who makes our teas."

Filleigh benefited from having Devon Women players Anna and Milly Squires available for the first team last summer, but they have both moved away with their studies.