Counties hope 2020 cricket season can still take place despite disruption

  • ECB has produced a range of contingency plans for the summer
  • £50m strategic infrastructure fund may be used to ease cashflow

The 18 first-class counties are awaiting guidance from the England and Wales Cricket Board amid cautious optimism the 2020 season may yet be salvaged.

There is a widespread acceptance that a delayed start to the County Championship is inevitable given the social distancing measures in place across the UK, with the ECB having already advised an indefinite suspension of the recreational game. After a week of conference calls between the counties and the ECB further clarity is set to emerge as the sport tries to protect its key revenue drivers – international cricket, the T20 Blast and the Hundred – during what will be a truncated summer.

Further consultation with the counties is due on Friday before the ECB board meets to discuss a range of contingency plans that have been drawn up by Tom Harrison, the chief executive, in conjunction with the Professional Game Group (an advisory committee), the Professional Cricketers’ Association and the broadcasters Sky.

Whichever of these is eventually enacted the sport is heading for a huge financial hit, such that counties have already inquired as to whether the ECB’s £50m strategic infrastructure fund could be accessed to address cash-flow difficulties.

Leicestershire are one club said to be in trouble but Mark Arthur, the chief executive of Yorkshire, said there remains a strong will among all 18 counties to stick together even if uncertainty is the prevailing mood at present. Arthur said: “If we knew if it was going to be two, three, four months without cricket then clubs could at least set their stall out – but it’s the not knowing.

“I was on the conference call with the ECB on Tuesday and [bankruptcy] wasn’t mentioned by anybody. The great thing about cricket compared to some other sports is that we are in it together. The decisions will be made for the game, not individuals. Cricket is cohesive, thinks of the wider game, and will get through this.”

Whether a fully mapped-out season emerges in the coming days remains to be seen, not least with four sets of men’s tourists due to be hosted in West Indies, Pakistan, Australia and Ireland, as well as the launch of the new 100-ball competition.

The three-match Test series against West Indies, due to start at the Oval on 4 June, looks set to be pushed back. While there has been an offer to host this in the Caribbean, with a gap in December for both teams, it reflects a general will to be flexible and creative rather than a genuine solution at this stage.

Richard Goatley, the Middlesex chief executive, said: “We all expect a delayed start to the summer because sport across the board has been cancelled in the coming months.

“But the ECB seem really on top of this and focused. We’re seeing the right sort of leadership. We might be playing cricket before people might think too. We shouldn’t be writing off the cricket season just yet.”

Contributor

Ali Martin

The GuardianTramp

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