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County cricket 2021 – Lateral flow tests, vaccine passports under consideration in bid to get cricket crowds back



Lateral flow tests and vaccination certificates could be used to accelerate the return of spectators to cricket, according to Lancashire chief executive, Daniel Gidney.

While Gidney celebrates the recent roadmap out of lockdown as “the best news” he’s had “in a very, very long time”, he hopes the game can find a way to work with government to facilitate a return of crowds ahead of current guidelines.

For example, under the plans outlined by Boris Johnson on Monday, full houses will not be permitted before June 21 and there will be, in theory, no crowds at all before May 17.

But with the County Championship season starting on April 8, it is possible for six rounds of action to have taken place before a spectator is admitted to the ground. And with the T20 Blast campaign, which is so vital to cashflow in the domestic game, starting on June 9, counties could be missing out on some lucrative fixtures due to restrictions which will see a maximum of 25 percent capacity allowed to attend before June 21.

As a result, Gidney – and some of his fellow chief executives – are looking at ways to demonstrate to government that hosting spectators in cricket grounds is every bit as safe as allowing customers into non-essential shops or beer gardens, both of which are scheduled to be permitted from April 12.

To that end, it is likely there will be a request for the government to accept early-season matches as ‘pilot’ events, during which counties will attempt to demonstrate they can safely deal with the return of spectators. The MCC and Warwickshire, who host the Tests against New Zealand at the start of June, may well ask for similar dispensations. At present, both venues are likely to be limited to 25 percent capacity.

“There is a group of CEOs, including me, who are on a return-to-crowds group coming up with practical low-risk solutions,” Gidney said. “If you have 500 people going into a store – or 500 in a massive beer garden – how is that different to 500 watching in a cricket ground?

“Also, if we have 500 members coming in, we can do lateral flow testing in the car park with a 30-minute turn round for the results and you only come in with a negative test. Coupled with the fact that demographic [county members, who are typically older people] are likely to have been vaccinated, I will be asking ‘what is wrong with that approach?’.

“I want to be able to get members back watching County Championship cricket in April. Not in huge numbers, but we need lots of pilots, so we don’t rush in blind on May 17.”

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