IT wasn’t that long ago the only grey areas Lancashire League teams had to worry about were the rain-heavy clouds hovering above.

But now on the eve of the 2021 season, clubs are having to negotiate rules, regulations, guidelines and ever-changing instructions to make sure matches are safe to go ahead in Covid-hit times.

While league chairman Mike Bibby admits some of the rulings, coming down from the ECB via the Government, are more obstructive than constructive, he is just happy that cricket has returned – albeit with restrictions.

One of the biggest grey areas is, for the time being at least, matches having to be played behind closed doors – although some members could be allowed to enjoy a drink if clubs have approved outside drinking areas, meaning they can catch a glimpse of the cricket.

“We might not be happy with the circumstances but we are happy that cricket is back,” said Bibby. “We are getting mixed messages filtering down to us and they seem to be changing all the time. There are a lot of grey areas which is not very helpful.

“The spectators one is the case in point. Fans aren’t allowed in but members or patrons, as some are now calling them, can attend and enjoy a drink outside but aren’t allowed to wander around the pitch.

“But all the clubs are working hard to adapt, each club has a match manager who know all about the rules and regulations and we are hoping common sense prevails.”

But in the midst of all this, cricket will break out and Bibby could not be happier.

Mike Bibby

Mike Bibby

“At the end of the day, that is the most important thing,” he said. “It has been tough for everyone, we didn’t play any league cricket last year, clubs did have their own mini-tournaments, so it is important we get back to playing and hopefully there are no setbacks along the way.”

A full league programme begins tomorrow after today’s Ron Singleton Colne Trophy curtain raiser which pits 2019 silverware winners against each other – league champions Burnley and Worsley Cup winners Darwen.

While these continue to be unpredictable times, Bibby says the same could be said about who will contest the league title this season.

“There will always be the usual suspects but to be honest, anyone can win the title,” said Bibby. “I suspect Burnley, Lowerhouse and Ramsbottom will be up there as they usually are but every club has a strong case.

“Since going to two divisions, it has been very competitive so hopefully we will have another successful and full season to look forward to.”

Some of the standout games in the first round of fixtures see Burnley kick off their defence at Rochdale while Colne, promoted as Division Two champions in 2019, have a tough opener against Ramsbottom.

In Division Two, league new boys Greenmount – who replaced Milnrow – travel to Accrington who will be eyeing promotion have been relegated from Division One two seasons ago.


Today – Ron Singleton Colne Trophy: Burnley v Darwen

Sunday – Division One: Clitheroe v Walsden, Colne v Ramsbottom, Crompton v Darwen, Lowerhouse v Norden, Rochdale v Burnley, Todmorden v Middleton.

Division Two: Accrington v Greenmount, Bacup v Enfield, Littleborough v Haslingden, Nelson v Great Harwood, Rawtenstall v East Lancashire, Rishton v Church.