THE chairman of the Lancashire Cricket League says they will do all they can to help clubs after it was announced its 2020 season will not be completed.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the league will not play any matches until the first weekend of July at the earliest while all cup competitions have been postponed.

Mike Bibby knows clubs will be hit hard and says they league will assist in ways of obtaining funding – either through the England and Wales Cricket Board or the Lancashire Cricket Foundation.

“Generally, clubs do not make money from the people who come in through the gates as attendances for league games are not that high,” said Bibby.

“The money is made through the clubhouse, money taken over the bar, money taken from functions, parties and events. All that has gone now and I know a number of clubs will struggle financially.”

He added: “From our point of view, the Lancashire Cricket Foundation is our first port of call to see what can be done and I know speaking to them, they will be contacting clubs individually to see what can be done.

“We are also waiting to see what the England and Wales Cricket Board can do as well in terms of making funding available.”

The league is playing its part where possible and had reduced league fees from £450 to £100 to cover administration costs while its professional rule – where every club usually has to field a professional or receive a fine – has been relaxed.

Cricket balls have already been ordered and have to be paid for but Bibby says that is another area they are trying to negotiate with manufacturers.

“We have made some decisions and put in certain measures and they seem to have been well received by the clubs which is something we appreciate as we are all in this together,” added Bibby.

“We have relaxed the rule on clubs having to have a professional and hopefully those contracts can be cancelled and that way the clubs can save some money.”

Of the 23 professionals due to compete in the 2020 season – Milnrow resigned from the league last year – only five are based in England.

“There are nine coming from South Africa and they are not allowed to travel and I am assuming it is the same with those professionals travelling from Sri Lanka. Hopefully those contracts have been cancelled," Bibby said.

“There are five based in England so that is a slightly different situation. Clubs will either be able to try and cancel those contracts or they may well keep on their professionals for if and when we start.”

Bibby, 75, has a wealth of experience in both the Lancashire League and the Ribblesdale League as a player, umpire and committee man and says these are unprecedented times.

“Of course I have never known anything like this in all my years involved in cricket,” said Bibby who was also involved with Clitheroe and Whalley in the Ribblesdale League.

“We had the foot and mouth outbreak a few years ago but that just restricted a bit of travel, especially to the more rural areas to clubs surrounded by or near to farm land.

“But that was reasonably easy to deal with.

“Other than that, the biggest disruption to the game has been the weather.”

Bibby says the shutdown is all the more harder to take following the success of last year where Burnley were crowned champions.

“It was probably the best season we have had in all my time involved in the league,” he said. “We had two very competitive divisions and the race for the title in both divisions went down to the wire with neither settled until right at the end.

“As a committee, that is what you want, two very competitive divisions, It is just a shame we can’t build on that success this season.”

When this season eventually starts, it will be on a reduced format with teams playing each other just once with no promotion or relegations at stake – with Second and Third teams also competing in their respective leagues in a similar format.

The league will also look to introduce a T20 competition if it is viable.

Bibby is hoping a prolonged period without any cricket does not drive players – especially younger ones – away from the game.

“That is the worry and the fear I suppose,” he said. “The youngsters may decide to do something else instead, especially if there is nothing at stake. It is up to us to try and keep them involved.”

He added: “I feel sorry for the juniors as well, every club has a junior section and they get the chance to play and train during the week and all that has stopped.”

Whatever happens, Bibby says it is important everyone stays fit and healthy and follows all the relevant guidelines.

“I’m 75 so I have been self isolating already but is it vital that everyone involved in all clubs follow the rules and advice.

“Of course we want to be back playing cricket and hopefully that will happen at some stage in the summer.

“This year it won’t be about cups and league titles, it will just been about getting out there and playing some cricket.”