Lincs ECB Premier League pencil in August 1 start date... with teams to be split into two regions

Hopes the county's three main Saturday leagues will see action this year...

Woodhall Spa's Joe Irving sends down a delivery at Sleaford last year. Photo: David Dawson

The Lincolnshire ECB Premier has pencilled in an August 1 start date.

Plans are in place to split the county's top flight into two smaller leagues, culminating in semi-finals and a final to be played in September.

Teams are also due to receive their fixture schedules today, said league chairman Hedley Stroud.

It is hoped the South Lincs and Border League and Lincolnshire County League will be able to follow suit.

"Behind the scenes we've had lots of meeting and we're about to put out our provisional fixture list, starting from August 1," Mr Stroud said.

"Certainly, with regards the Premier League, we hope to have some provisional fixtures out by lunch time today, maybe tea time, for commencement August 1.

"The plan for the Premier League is to split the county north and south and have two mini leagues culminating in, hopefully, semi-finals and a final in September.

"That's the current proposal we'll go with if allowed."

The sporting landscape remains at the mercy of the COVID-19 pandemic and Mr Stroud admits current plans may not come to fruition.

However, officials and clubs remain positive.

"That may not happen but we have to put things in place, making an assumption we will be able to play what we call competitive and meaningful cricket by the beginning of August - that's all we can do at the moment," Mr Stroud added.

"That will be the same for the three main Saturday leagues in the county, so we have been talking to clubs and also having lots of chats about what sot of format cricket will take.

"At the moment we're just waiting for guidance from the Government and the ECB.

We have got detailed plans in place if we're allowed to re-start. We're not twiddling our thumbs, we're waiting for two documents.

"One is details of adapted play, an the other one is a detailed document on getting facilities back to being safe and appropriate for recommencement. One goes with the other."

While the appetite to play cricket this summer remains strong, administrators and clubs face their own challenges.

"If it gets below five weeks it will be hard to put something in place," Mr Stroud added.

"But we feel August 1 is a compromise in terms of having something in place. It's not just getting clubs and players, it's getting umpires.

"There are quite a lot of umpires who are uncomfortable about standing, perhaps this season. I think probably a quarter have said that at the moment they're going to give it a miss this year, which is fair enough.

"Obviously, there's a lot of stuff behind the scenes to put it all together but clubs are working hard and doing what they can and obviously waiting for a green light.

"There are some clubs who have, not in our league, got issues with grounds and I think there are several that probably aren't able to get their grounds ready or have access to the grounds to play cricket.

"I've been looking ahead to preserve what we can given where we are.

"At the end of the day there will probably be some clubs who will end up playing friendlies and things like that and don't want to buy into a league structure and the commitments; perhaps some who don't quite know how many players will be wanting to play.

"All we can do through the leagues and Lincolnshire cricket is put something together that works for players and officials, so we have something to hopefully look forward to."

County cricket is set to begin on August 1, although Mr Stroud admits Lincolnshire's plans for the club cricket season are pure coincidence.

He added: "We put that date in before that came out. As a reasonable start date.

"I think some counties are looking earlier but they're probably thinking 'we've jumped the gun a bit'.

"At one point we were looking at August 8 but if it slips a week it slips a week. At least if it is able to start on August 1 we will give it a try."