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ECB Tasked By the UK Government to Lead the Study on the Viability of ‘Bio-Secure’ Sport

The government of the United Kingdom has instructed the ECB to take the lead in studying the possibility of playing games in an environment that is bio secure.

It is almost a consensus that the broadcast deals that provide the money that sustain the majority of the top flight sporting events can only be fulfilled if the remaining games for the season are completed, even if it means taking them behind closed doors. Because of that, the ECB has been instructed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to study the viability of this option for all high profile sports including football, so as to share and implement it according to the results of the research. However, it is not all doom and gloom because even if this is the case, as sports fans we will still be able to bet on the fixtures and watch them. Nowadays you can watch live cricket on most betting websites through their streaming services. Here you can find some reliable UK options where you can sign up for free.

The notion out there is that Steve Elworthy’s technical know-how and experience in managing complex and large scale events (he organized the 2019 world cup and many others), plus the impeccable integrity of ECB’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Peirce are the pointers that led the DCMS to put their trust in the ECB and task them to study the matter critically and revert to the body in good time.

This announcement is coming just after Tom Harrison; the chief executive officer of ECB, gave some hints that holding an international cricket tournament later this year can only be possible in a bio-secure environment. Having that in mind, Harrison pointed to the fact that shelving of the previous schedules and match allocations is inevitable. This is because the international schedule must be held in the most minimum number of centres possible.

According to Harrison, that task before the ECB as apportioned by the DCMS covers rugby, tennis, horse racing, and football. Different sporting activities have been interacting in the area of health in the bid to ensure the safety of players. He pointed out that he was in a conference call with the RFU and FA chairmen previously, and it all centred on how to work together and share information between each other. He also said that he will talk to the Premier League about the same subject later, because the challenge cuts across all sports and divisions, and decisions must be taken as a single sector.

Whatever decision that the ECB reaches at the end, the government must approve them before the governing body will signal the resumption of play. The ECB hopes that the seeking of approvals at the dying minute that is normally occasioned by delays would be avoided by all bodies involved agreeing on a particular decision at the same time by partnering together from the onset.

The notion is that to complete their international fixtures, England will use just one or two grounds. The chosen grounds have not been concluded on, but with the huge hotels situated around some centres, like the Emirates around the Old Trafford, and the Ageas Bowl around the Southampton stadium, they appear to be the best two candidates. Some other grounds like the Lord’s and New Road also have large and small hotels respectively. When fewer grounds are used, it would be easier to keep it virus free and save a lot of costs.

He went ahead to say that venue allocation must be given a second thought because of the possibility of playing indoors. The entire understanding of hosting games will be altered because of lack of match day revenue. So, the concepts of offering these games to everyone in England and giving viewers the chance to see England in their backyard are not overtaken by the need to stay safe and save lives.

So, venues with the appropriate facilities to deliver on the mentioned conditions will be the top contenders to host the remaining games. But the body will have to agree with the government on the primary conditions to look for. They are trying to ensure that the system they will come up with would be approved by the government and medical personnel. But to come up with such a bio secure environment, a lot of resources would have to go into it.

The focus is to fix matches in neutral venues and execute them there. They also have to decide the number of centres that are necessary for the international fixtures and the centres that qualify for that. To make things more complicated, the multi day formats entail that the preparation of pitches would be a regular thing.

Things are also made complex in the domestic fixtures, in the sense that there are multiple teams involved. Because of these, there is huge work to be done if playing indoors is to become a reality. He also assured that they are already on it, even though much work is still needed. To put things in proper perspective, Harrison emphasized that they have the urge to deliver some domestic cricket games this season.

He went ahead to say that the same criteria to decide on the safety of international cricket are also used for the domestic type. Because of this, it’s looking more like domestic cricket will not happen in 2020, while the recreational cricket seems even more farfetched.

Now, the issue is not to have a measure for local cricket and a different one for international cricket according to Harrison. The overriding thing is the measure to keep people out of harm’s way whether they are men or women cricketers and whether in the domestic or international sphere. Moving from the recreational to the professional cricket levels, the cost becomes difficult to determine. The debate on the cost implication has to be completed before anything else.

That the UK is relatively doing lower tests is also a problem to sports in the country. While the government is planning on a hugely improved testing capacity, the people to prioritize now are the health workers and their family members. So, if by any means, there are more important areas in need of resources like it is for health workers and their family, it will be insensitive to plead for such resources to be diverted to sports.

The meaning of this is that everybody should understand that it is not possible to start testing privileged athletes or other people that work in the field of sports, even when vulnerable people and health workers are still facing a national health crisis. For Harrison, they will be expecting the government to inform them when it will be possible. But for now, it is yet unclear. They have no intention to lobby for that, they are only working with the government.

For Harrison, the remaining fixtures might still be fulfilled with the 1st July date set by the FA for return of football. But if it’s pushed back further, then games have to be cancelled and not postponed.

He had stated before that £300m loss will be experienced by cricket in England if games are not played this year, accepting that the impact of the current situation is already very bad, even if all games are completed successfully.

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