LONDON: The England and Wales Cricket Board will step up plans to restart the sport behind closed doors after the British government gave the green light to return to action.
British government officials have confirmed cricket and other sports will be able to resume from Monday after the publication of health and safety guidelines designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The ECB will now study the document to determine how it can help the process of its sport emerging from the pandemic lockdown.
We are extremely heartened by Saturday’s announcement from the Secretary of State, which will support the return of professional, domestic cricket behind closed doors, and provides a meaningful next step for recreational players to begin playing at their clubs again,” an ECB statement said on Sunday.
Over the coming week, we will seek to understand the specific guidance from Government’s medical teams so that we can provide support for cricket clubs who will be eager to see their communities safely playing in small groups.”
The Government’s approval of stage three of the return to elite sport came only two days after the ECB pushed back the start of the domestic season until August 1.
International cricket is pencilled in to return on July 8 after Cricket West Indies approved in principle the tour of England.
Plans have been drawn up to create“bio-secure” environments around each Test match, which are tentatively scheduled to start on July 8, 16, and 24 and are to be held behind closed doors in Southampton and Manchester.
England named a 55-man training group on Friday to prepare for the series, as well as a planned visit from Pakistan and limited-overs games against Australia.
HORSE RACING RESUMES
Horse racing will be the first main sport to resume in England on Monday as the UK government proclaimed “the British sporting recovery has begun” after a near three-month shutdown.
The first major event is expected to be the 2000 Guineas Stakes horse race at Newmarket on June 6, although horse race meetings will be staged, without any spectators, starting on Monday at Newcastle and Tuesday at Kempton Park.
Jockeys will wear masks and medical checks will be required on arrival and before leaving the course in Newcastle, where 10 races are planned. Snooker and greyhound racing events have also been lined up for Monday.
Guidelines published on Saturday by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), outlined a lengthy list of criteria that must be met to allow elite athletes and professional sportsmen to resume competition.
The wait is over. Live British sport will shortly be back on in safe and carefully controlled environments,” Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said in a statement. This guidance provides the safe framework for sports to resume competitions behind closed doors. It is now up to individual sports to confirm they can meet these protocols and decide when it’s right for them to restart.”
PREMIER LEAGUE BOOST
Dowden confirmed that preparations were being finalised for the Premier League and English Football League to return to action in June. Premier League shareholders this week agreed a return to contact training with a provisional restart date of June 17, provided safety requirements are in place.
“There is still much work to be done to ensure the safety of everyone involved,” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said.
DCMS said a “significant proportion” of the remaining 92 Premier League matches will be shown on free-to-air platforms.
In a boost for the sporting landscape, it was then announced that there have been no positive findings from the latest round of coronavirus testing carried out in the Premier League.
The fourth round of screening saw a total of 1,130 players and club staff tested, said officials.
While the Premier League could resume on June 17, other sports are in different positions.
The Wimbledon tennis tournament has been cancelled for the first time since World War II. Formula One is exploring two races at Silverstone from July, with the season yet to start due to the pandemic, while Premiership rugby clubs hope to resume training from June 8.
The government also announced on Saturday that people in England will be able to exercise outside with up to five others from different households from Monday. The announcement did not apply to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2020