THE chairman of the Ribblesdale Cricket League has urged spectators to stay away from the final round of fixtures on Saturday due to the increased numbers of coronavirus cases.

With much of Lancashire in localised lock downs, Bill Slinger has also asked clubs to close its bars and shut it gates to help cope with the situation.

While government guidelines suggest spectators are only advised to stay away from amateur or semi professional sport, Slinger believes it is vital that matches are played behind close doors to protect all those involved.

While he admits it will be an unpopular decision - especially with Ribblesdale Wanderers and Settle both going for the title on the final day - he says the welfare of those directly involved must take precedence.

In a statement, he said: "I have made enquires with Lancashire Cricket Foundation and the ECB in relation to this matter. Enquiries have also been made with Lancashire Police.

"The advice given is that this should be strictly adhered to in order to protect the players and officials directly involved in the matches.

"My advice to clubs is not to open the bar to discourage spectators and look to restrict areas to grounds to those involved in the fixture (ie players, umpires and scorers).

"It is suggested that clubs use all forms of communication, social media etc to inform their members of the requirement of them not to attend matches.

"This early notification may help to reduce friction and disappointment on the day."

League leaders Ribblesdale Wanderers host Read knowing victory would give them their first title since 2000 while champions Settle go to Oswaldtwistle still in with a chance of retaining their crown should Wanderers slip up.

Both matches would usually attract good crowds but Slinger says it is not worth taking the risk.

"I am sure this will be unpopular with members, particularly with silverware to play for but the welfare of those members and those directly involved in the fixture must take precedence," added Slinger who also has matches taking place at Earby, Feniscowles and Cherry Tree on the final day of the season

"As the guidance and protocols are changing on a daily basis, I would normally have delayed sending this email however due to the steps that clubs need to put in place I wanted to give all clubs as much notice as possible."