Cricket fans experiment halted after PM’s lockdown latest

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Training in progress last week at a deserted Edgbaston. A limited number of fans were allowed back earlier in the week but the experiment has now been stopped. Photo submiitted

IN light of today’s announcement by the Prime Minister on the cancellation of the spectator pilot programme for live sport, Warwickshire County Cricket Club has confirmed its plans for this weekend’s fixture to be its second chance to allow people in to watch has been scrapped.

Club members and supporters were due to be able to attend play in the opening Bob Willis Trophy match versus Northamptonshire at Edgbaston tomorrow, Saturday, or on Sunday.

They had been able to do so earlier in the week for the friendly fixture between Warwickshire and Worcestershire at the ground.

But chief executive Stuart Cain said today, Friday: “We’re naturally disappointed by today’s announcement given the steps that we have taken to create the safest possible environment at an elite sporting event. However, we fully understand and respect the government’s decision.

“We remain committed to working with the Government and the ECB to play a further part in this pilot programme and building on our first successful hosting of a live crowd on Tuesday.

“Whilst we understand the disappointment from our members and supporters, we have invested in an enhanced live stream for our matches in the 2020 season, and this can be accessed completely free from tomorrow morning at edgbaston.com.”

Warwickshire members were able to claim complimentary tickets for both days of the spectator pilot programme. Supporters who bought tickets will receive an automatic refund in the coming days.

It all looked so different on Wednesday when the county reflected on the previous day’s events when more than 800 members of the neighbouring counties enjoyed the first day of the friendly fixture.

Minister for Sport Nigel Huddleston and Shadow Minister for Sport Alison McGovern had also been in attendance alongside England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison, as Edgbaston became the first elite sporting event in the Midlands to accommodate a crowd since March.

Mr Cain said on Wednesday: “In just ten days the team at Edgbaston have safely delivered one of UK sport’s first live events without compromising on giving members a great day of cricket.

“That wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Birmingham City Council, local Councillors, the ECB, central government and a number of other stakeholders, including our ticketing partners Secutix and The Ticket Factory.

“It helps that Edgbaston has a proven track record of delivering high profile events but we’ve had to totally re-engineer  the way we think about every aspect of staging sport, including player welfare, ticketing, access control, seating, concessions, toilets, parking.

“Everything has been re-thought with social distancing and safety in mind. It has been a challenging but rewarding exercise that helps the industry define how sport should operate once government is comfortable with the introduction of large-scale gatherings.”

Though today’s announcement sees the government delay the next step, Warwickshire’s work will no doubt be of value when the pilot programme resumes.