LONDON: The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) Thursday confirmed a further delay to the start of the professional domestic cricket season, with no domestic cricket to be played before 1 August.
The specifics of the season remain subject to ongoing advice from UK government and health experts, but the ambition remains to host domestic men's and women's cricket across England and Wales later this summer.
The Professional Game Group (PGG) will look to outline a number of opportunities for domestic play, which will be presented to the ECB board in June.
These plans include a number of options for both red-ball and white-ball cricket including matches played at all First Class Grounds, the use of a regional group model as well as consideration for matches played behind closed doors or with a limited number of supporters while strictly adhering to Government guidance on social distancing. The working group is also exploring options where non-televised games can be live streamed for members and supporters.
As the ongoing COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, these scenarios will be worked on and assessed. Learnings from the return-to-training programmes for England Men’s players will be incorporated, in addition to those sourced from any international matches played behind closed doors.
The recreational game currently remains suspended until further notice – with the sole exception of the use of outdoor cricket facilities (nets and pitches) for the purpose of undertaking exercise. The ECB will seek to progress discussions with the UK Government to begin mapping out a return, including the potential for an earlier return of junior cricket.
“We remain hopeful of seeing both domestic and recreational cricket this season and planning with the PGG has allowed us to map a number of potential scenarios for domestic play.”
Tom Harrison, ECB chief executive officer, said: “Naturally we want to see cricket being played at every level. We remain hopeful of seeing both domestic and recreational cricket this season and planning with the PGG has allowed us to map a number of potential scenarios for domestic play.
“While traditional formats of our competitions are the preference, we are not against exploring the unorthodox to ensure that we can return our players to the field.
“That can only happen though when it is safe, and we have said throughout this crisis that the safety and well-being of everyone involved in the game is our key priority.
“We have learned a lot and continue to learn about the safety protocols that would need to be in place to stage international cricket behind closed doors in this environment and those protocols will also need to apply to the domestic game.
“Across the recreational game it has been heart-warming to hear of clubs where players have returned to the nets. As children start returning to school in the coming weeks, we look forward to exploring how those guidelines and learnings can be deployed for cricket. This can then see the recreational game continue its phased return as soon as we have Government approval.”