THE Lancashire League will commence on the first weekend of August after the Government made a U-turn on the return of recreational cricket.

Following an executive league meeting at Lowerhouse Cricket Club, the league have opted for a mini-league round-robin format with semi-finals and finals.

Chairman Mike Bibby said the main priority was just to get playing cricket again.

“At one stage, it did look like we would not be playing any cricket whatsoever this summer,” he said. “Of course this is not ideal, and it will be dependent on Government and ECB guidelines, but the main thing is that we are playing cricket again and that is all we want.”

Bibby said all clubs have been contacted about the proposal and have seven days to get back in touch with the league.

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Should it go ahead, the league’s 23 teams will be split in to four groups, with each team playing each other once. The winners of each group will progress to the semi-finals with the final scheduled to be held on Sunday, September 13.

Matches will be 40 overs and the competition will follow Worsley Cup rules.

The league’s five clubs that have England-based professionals – including champions Burnley who have Ockert Erasmus – will all play in one group.

The other four teams are Middleton, Littleborough, Ramsbottom and Norden.

The other three groups will have six teams with the league trying, where possible, to group local clubs together.

“We have contacted every club with our proposal and they have seven days to come back to us with their decision,” added Bibby. “We are trying to keep all the local clubs together to cut down on travel. Those groups will be finalised once we hear back from everyone.

“Some clubs may opt not to play again this summer so we will wait and see.

“Our decision may not please everyone but it will just be good to get some form of cricket played again.”

Bibby says the league will be in constant contact with the ECB over which guidelines to follow.

“It’s what they call adaptive cricket so it will not be what we are used to and there will be some strict rules to follow and we of course will listen to instructions from the ECB,” he added. “It won’t be the same but at least it will be cricket.”

Such rules include, wherever possible, players travelling to venues in cars with either family members or alone. There will be limited use or no use at all of changing rooms and, at is stands, there will be no teas served.

The four Valley clubs, Haslingden, Ramsbottom, Rawtenstall and Bacup, have set up a mini competition to be played in July and Bibby said other clubs have that option.

“That is a decision they made among themselves,” said Bibby.

“Clubs may use this month just to play a series of friendlies or they could set up their own mini-competition like the Valley clubs have.”

The Ribblesdale League, meanwhile will meet this week to discuss plans for its own project restart.

The league will look at all options but chairman Bill Slinger says common sense must prevail.

Slinger says the league will wait for firmer guidelines from the government and ECB before making a final decision but is hoping to see the return of some form of cricket by July 25.

He said: “The simple position is that we are waiting to see exactly what the ECB guidelines say in relation to the protocols and restrictions that will allow recreational cricket to restart. During the lockdown we have kept the clubs informed of the information circulated by Lancashire Cricket Foundation, the Government and the ECB.

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“I am have been involved with the Zoom meetings with them and other league chairman and officials.

“The league executive is looking at the various options available and once these options are decided we will circulate these to clubs.

“But whatever decision we come to, common sense must prevail.”

Slinger said he would be in favour of returning with cricket in all formats – league, cup and Twenty20.

But he did warn getting every player back playing might not be that simple.

“It is all about trying to stimulate interest,” he said. “That is why I am in favour in returning with the league and the cups.

“You might lose your first few league games and then you have nothing to play for. But if you reach a semi-final or final of a cup then that certainly generates a bit of interest around the club and that is what we want.”

He added: “But there may be some clubs or individual players who might not want to return and have already decided to have the summer away from cricket and return next year.

“For example, I know quite a few cricketers who have joined golf clubs assuming cricket would not return.

“We also have to take in to account the weather and fading light as we head in to September. We are in the same position as most leagues in that a lot of areas need to be looked at; format for games, player availability, length of the season. These are all areas that we will discuss.”