County cricket season confirmed to be delayed until August
The England & Wales Cricket Board has confirmed a further delay to the start of the county season, with no domestic cricket to be played before 1 August.
The ambition remains, subject to ongoing advice from health experts and the government, for domestic cricket to take place later this summer.
“Any further delay was always going to be disappointing for our players and coaches, as it is for our members and supporters,” said Nottinghamshire Director of Cricket Mick Newell.
“But we’re in a situation that has affected absolutely everyone, and we all fully understand the reasons why we need to stay at home for a little bit longer.
“Players and coaches are desperate to get the game on, and there is a willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve that.
“There’s an awful lot going on behind the scenes with the ECB, the PCA and the county chief executives preparing for a resumption of domestic cricket.
“Science and medicine departments across the country are putting in a lot of work to establish what procedures may look like based on government advice, with the health and safety of players and spectators at the top of everyone’s agenda.
“We’re in regular contact with our players and we’re doing all we can to get them out on the field as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.
“We are thankful for everybody’s patience and understanding and will provide further information to our members and supporters as soon as we can.”
A number of scheduling options from August onwards are being explored, including models that incorporate both red and white ball-cricket, matches being played at all First-Class grounds and the use of regional groups.
Plans are being drafted for matches behind closed doors and for games taking place with limited crowds in attendance in adherence with social distancing guidance.
The ECB and the Professional Game Group (PGG) are also exploring options which involve non-televised games being streamed live online for members and supporters.
These scenarios will be worked on and continually assessed as the COVID-19 situation evolves. Learnings from the return-to-training programmes for England men’s players, in addition to international matches played behind closed doors throughout July, will also be incorporated.
The recreational game currently remains suspended until further notice, with the sole exception of regulated use of outdoor facilities (nets and pitches) for the purposes 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 resumption of junior cricket.
“Naturally we want to see cricket being played at every level,” added ECB Chief Executive Officer, Tom Harrison.
“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.
“Whilst 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.”