Tolchards Devon League clubs have been warned to check the eligibility of any player about to appear in his first game of the season, writes Conrad Sutcliffe.

The league has two registration deadlines every season – one at the end of June for transfers and another in late July for new signings, either from outside the league or former players reappearing.

The second deadline was brought in around 20 years ago to prevent clubs brining in ‘hired guns’ for the last month of the season to win titles or avoid relegations.

It wasn’t unusual to see high profile players – former Gloucestershire and England fast bowler David Lawrence was one of the best known – appearing for clubs with worries.

Torquay caused a stir at the back end of the 1994 season when Lawrence was drafted in to help them in their relegation fight. They stayed up. Sidmouth and South Devon did not.

Players who have not featured since 2016 could also fall foul of the regulations, which have an inbuilt time scale. If they haven’t played this season or last, the probably won’t be eligible.

Ed Leverton, the league secretary, said the deadline day July 31, clubs should it is important clubs familiarise themselves with the regulations to avoid a nasty surprise in the shape of a five-point deduction per ineligible player.

The regulation is:

‘Eligibility after July 31: Only players who have played during the current season in a league match at any level in the DCL up to and including the last Saturday in July, or were registered to that club in the previous season and had played in at least three matches at any level in the DCL, shall be considered eligible to play in any remaining fixtures of that season (this does not affect F Division downwards who will be allowed to continue to use the Loan Player Scheme and Casual Players registration).

“This reminder should particularly be noted by clubs with teams in the C, D and E divisions who have engaged with the loan player scheme and the casual player registration,” said Leverton.

“In cases of doubt please contact either the league registrations secretary, or your divisional results secretary.”