The next six months are “fraught with danger” for sport, according to England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison.
The ECB managed to stage men’s and women’s internationals behind closed doors across the summer to rescue much-needed broadcast revenue, but the organisation faces further pressure from restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Government has pressed pause on the return of spectators to sports venues, which had been due to take place from October 1 on a socially-distanced basis, leaving sports including cricket facing tough months ahead.
Harrison, speaking at LeadersWeek.direct, said: “We’re not anywhere near through this crisis yet. Other sports have highlighted that the next six months are fraught with danger.
4️⃣ speakers.4️⃣ different sports.4️⃣ different aspects of coming back to live sport.@NFL's @TroyVincentSr, @F1's Chloe Targett-Adams, @ECB_cricket's Tom Harrison & @usta's Stacey Allaster are up first on the 'Leaders Live' channel.#LeadersWeek pic.twitter.com/uns8Usn8Ab
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“Cricket in this country is no different from that. We’re facing a pretty bleak winter with the events and conferencing business all but shut down.
“We have tough times ahead, even though we’ve achieved a certain amount this year and managed to stave off disaster. But we’re by no means through it.”
Harrison spoke about the challenges of trying to get the international summer of cricket played, including bringing the West Indies over for the first Test series of the summer.
“Building the relationship with (the UK) Government was crucially important, and it enabled us to go to overseas governments and have the same conversation with them and build up that relationship as well,” he said.
“In the West Indies’ case you’re talking about eight separate governments from the Caribbean islands in a Covid-free environment back in May and June when we put these plans together.
“Our challenge was to convince players to come from a Covid-free environment to a country which was seen, at least in cricketing terms, as being in the eye of the storm.
— Nigel Huddleston MP (@HuddlestonNigel) September 26, 2020
“That’s why the focus on safety was so acute.”
There has been no confirmation yet regarding Government support for the sports sector beyond an assurance given to football’s National League that it would receive the support it needed to kick off its season last weekend.
The Government has insisted that the Premier League should look to support English Football League clubs who in some cases are in grave financial danger due to the continued loss of matchday revenue. Talks between the leagues are ongoing.
A petition to allow spectators back into sports venues passed the 10,000 threshold necessary to warrant a Government response on Tuesday.
Richard Gould, the chief executive of Surrey, said he felt the “high profile” of sport had counted against it in the decision over whether to allow fans to return amid the pandemic.
“It’s transport at the moment that I think is restricting policy-makers from opening up the stadia – that and the fact they didn’t want to do something which would be relatively high-profile,” he said at LeadersWeek.direct.
Gould, whose county staged trial matches with spectators in August and September, added: “Sport has a significant advantage over most other public elements that are now back in play.
“We’ve found some solutions, we’ve found safe ways of operating and we now need to be given the opportunity to reboot our businesses.”