CHAIRMAN Mike Bibby believes the extended Lancashire League format has given the competition a shot in the arm.

This season saw seven new sides join while three arrived ahead of the 2017 campaign. As a result the league expanded to 24 teams and will split into two divisions for next year.

The competitive nature of this season saw the title race go down to the wire before newcomers Walsden were crowned champions while three other matches had something riding on them as teams battled to get into the top 12 and make the split.

And Bibby believes that next season’s two tier format will provide even more crunch clashes and hailed the expansion as a success.

He said: “The addition of the 10 new teams over the last two years has proved to be the stimulus that the league needed.

“We have seen plenty of competitive cricket and the whole season has been absolutely superb.”

The set-up for the 2019 season will see teams play each other home and away with a two up two down promotion and relegation system between the two divisions. Four of this year’s new arrivals have made the split for the top tier and Bibby felt that Walsden were worthy winners.

“They have been there or thereabouts all season and to only lose one game is a fantastic achievement,” he added. “Quite often the league has been won by a team losing four or five games but this season Walsden lost once, Lowerhouse twice and Ramsbottom three times.

“That shows the competitive nature of the league, as does the T20 going to Burnley, the Worsley Cup to Lowerhouse and the Lancashire Knockout to Darwen.

“To have four different teams celebrating silverware highlights how strong the league is now.

“Already we are looking forward to next season.”