COLCHESTER and East Essex will play in the Shepherd Neame Essex League Gooch Division this season after cricket was given the green light to return.

The Castle Park side, who won promotion as division one champions last season, will begin their 2020 campaign in the newly-formed premier tier this weekend at Shenfield.

The newly-named divisions have been created after clubs took part in a league survey and an executive meeting was held, after cricket will allowed to resume following the season being delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

For this year only, the Essex League has removed numbering of the divisions and replaced it with the names of Essex captains or Essex players who have captained England.

Colchester's second XI will take part in the second-tier Prichard Division, named after former Essex skipper Paul Prichard.

A nine-week league season will run from this Saturday (July 18) until September 12 and clubs will also take part in a T20 competition.

However, there will be no League Cup due to lack of support for that tournament.

League matches will be 40 overs an innings for all divisions with no formal tea but there will be a break between innings.

Essex League chairman Thomas Clarke said: "From the survey, as expected, all clubs had many different requirements, wants and needs.

"And it was clear from the start that we, as a league committee, were never going to be able to satisfy all our clubs.

"The way the divisions have been created is by splitting them into different tiers - we have a Premier tier which is unregionalised - and then a first to fourth tier - all with divisions that have been regionalised and matched together for similar strength.

"This means that some first XIs will be playing second XIs and some second XIs will play third XIs etc.

"We feel this was the fairest and safest way for us to create new fixtures at such short notice.

"Also, to fully realise that the divisions are just for this year, we have taken away any numbering and instead replaced them with the names of Essex County Captains or Essex County Players who have captained England."

Clubs will be sent rules and regulations early next week and will be expected to adhere to ECB guidelines for the return of recreational cricket.

"As a league we will also be presenting advice over the next week to make sure all clubs are aware of what is expected of them," added Clarke.

"If clubs do not act on the guidance listed by the ECB and Government then they of course will not be able to participate in the league this season."

"As you can imagine the amount of hours having to be put in by your exec committee at the moment is off the scale.

"We understand that not every club is going to be 100 per cent satisfied with everything that we are arranging.

"However we ask that before ringing or emailing with a moan you take a breath, look at the big picture and remember how lucky we are to be able to play any sort of cricket at this moment in time."

Clubs have been asked to complete a Risk Assessment of their ground, announce any new players and ensure they have up to date contact details for all existing members and ensure all captains, scorers, coaches and umpires are DBS checked.

They have also been asked to ensure Club Welfare officers have the correct up to date qualifications, paperwork or are booked on a course.