VILLAGE cricket across the region faces a summer of major disruption as the foot-and-mouth crisis continues.

With precautions against the disease ruling many rural grounds out of bounds and farmers making up a high percentage of players in many teams, the coming season will be badly hit.

The Wensleydale Evening League has decided not to play any fixtures until 30 days after the foot-and-mouth outbreak has officially ended.

The league, which had attracted two new teams and been split into two divisions for the first time, has a majority of clubs based in Wensleydale itself, where the disease has already gained a foothold.

The Darlington and District League, which has 41 clubs based mainly in rural areas throughout South Durham and North Yorkshire, has abandoned the competitive season.

Instead, it has agreed that fixtures should be played wherever possible, but there will be no promotion or relegation between the four divisions and no penalties for being unable to compete.

League tables will still be compiled, with teams unable to fulfill a fixture awarded one point each, but there will be no official championships to be won.

The league hopes to complete cup competitions, using neutral grounds if necessary.

Press officer Steve Gill said: "We're going to play it as a friendly league, basically just to keep cricket going, otherwise teams could go to the wall."

The Nidderdale League has decided on a similar arrangement, although divisional championships and trophies will be awarded, with the winners decided on a points percentage basis. But there will be no promotion or relegation.

In a letter to its 83 teams, 21 of which have grounds which are unavailable because of foot-and-mouth precautions, the league management committee said: "The league's overriding responsibility is to ensure that every precaution is taken to prevent the spread of the disease, whilst striving to provide a framework for as much competitive cricket as possible."

Teams unable to complete a league fixture will be able to switch the match to their opponents' ground or a neutral venue. If it is still not possible to play the fixture, it will be treated as a rain-affected draw and each team will get two points.

Again there will be no penalty for teams failing to complete a fixture through shortage of players.

The Wath Cup and Nidderdale Evening League have been cancelled, while teams will be able to withdraw from other cup competitions without penalty.

The Langbaurgh West Rural District League's management committee is holding a meeting on Sunday to decide what to do, but secretary Bernard Newman said it was almost certain that the first half of the season's fixtures would be abandoned.

He said: "I've spoken to most clubs and 12 out of the 14 play on grounds which are not available.

"Some are not officially unavailable, but the clubs have spoken to local farmers and they have expressed a desire that the grounds are not used. We must take their feelings into account."

As with other rural leagues, many players are farmers and will not want to travel to games.

The Northallerton and District Evening League has responded to the concerns of many cricketers involved in farming by cancelling the first half of this season's fixtures.

The league's officers will continue to monitor the situation before making a decision on whether to play only the second half of the fixtures and/or the cup competitions.

Three of the league's clubs have said they will not be able to play because of their links to livestock, while two more grounds lie within the infected area around the outbreaks at Danby Wiske