There are positive rumors about the resumption of international cricket in the near future. While this is obviously good news, guest author William Buckingham argues that amateur cricket should be a priority for the ECB. do you agree?
Any return to cricket should come from the bottom up. The World Health Organization’s public health consultant Dr. Brian McCloskey believes it’s much easier and safer to reopen local sports facilities than major events. For this reason, the resumption of amateur cricket should receive as much, if not more, attention this summer than professional cricket.
The stakes are higher in professional cricket from a health standpoint. International travel, the need to stay in hotels, and the presence of the media all characterize professional play, increasing the risk of transmission. Amateur cricket avoids these problems.
What’s more, a summer without amateur cricket has more of an impact on the game than a summer without professional cricket. Why? Because a summer without cricket would ruin the finances of local clubs and bring many of them out of business.
Additionally, many amateurs get used to competing regularly and may never compete again afterwards. Regardless, a major problem with declining participation is that a summer without cricket would be another nail in the coffin.
With lucrative broadcasting deals under threat, the ECB is looking at the situation from the opposite angle – a “top-down” approach. While authorities have expressed concern about the amateur competition, there has been little communication about its prospects and potential contingency plans.
On the Tuffers and Vaughan Cricket Show, Tom Harrison didn’t mention the amateur game at all, focusing only on the professional game. In doing so, he gave the impression that the ECB was ignoring its most important stakeholders, the cricketers, in favor of finance.
I fear that will be disastrous. If professional cricket is played in empty stadiums on TV but there is no amateur cricket this summer, the integrity of the ECB is at stake. Because, according to McCloskey, if professional play can resume, amateur sports shouldn’t have any problems.
While testing is a major challenge for amateur sport — it is clearly much easier to monitor the health of a small group of professionals — the fact that anyone with symptoms can now be tested for COVID-19 should greatly improves the situation.
The ECB should therefore focus on the logistics to allow recreational cricket to return. New government guidelines suggest cricket facilities can open to small groups. In fact, some clubs are slowly beginning to reopen the Nets.
But when does the real game start? This is something that urgently needs to be thought about. Cricket is not a contact sport, so as with golf, social distancing should be easier to follow than other sports. In fact, golf courses have opened up across the country. The only possible obstacle is to let the ball shine. Changing rooms and other club facilities are not mandatory in amateur cricket.
It is also worth noting that many cricket fans are older and often live alone. Observing and supporting local teams is often an important part of their social lives. So the return of amateur cricket could help the mental health and social wellbeing of a group that has suffered so much during the coronavirus pandemic. Watching professional cricket live on TV (even if they can afford a subscription) won’t fill the void in the same way.
Of course, safety always comes first. It would be irresponsible to resume professional or amateur cricket before the coronavirus poses a minimal threat.
However, when professional sport takes precedence and amateur sport is largely neglected and ignored, the consequences can be more serious than authorities realize.
After all, cricket is nothing without amateur players.