T20 WC: ICC confident fans will respect COVID-19 guidelines; close family can travel with players

·6-min read
Dubai International Stadium will host the final of the T20 World Cup. (Photo/ IPLT20.com)
Dubai International Stadium will host the final of the T20 World Cup. (Photo/ IPLT20.com)

Dubai [UAE], October 7 (ANI): The International Cricket Council (ICC) has been working overtime to ensure the upcoming T20 World Cup in UAE and Oman is a huge success. And a major area of focus in current times is dealing with COVID-19 and the international body is keeping no stone unturned to ensure that the World Cup is played out as safely as possible.

Alex Marshall, Head of Integrity, ICC, on Thursday briefed select media on the biosafety plans for the showpiece event. And while the international body is looking to have close family accompany players, the fans will have to maintain social distance and there will be no selfie opportunities this time around.

"Yeah, so you've heard me talk about the well being and mental health of the people taking part. And that is hugely important to us. One of the reasons, we've got professional support at hand to give advice, and we're giving lots of resources. But we also know that being able to see families; close families can be a very important factor in reducing stress, and making a more enjoyable environment for people. So we have allowed a small number of close family to accompany teams if they wish to. And I think some teams will do that.

"In those cases, the family members who attend also have to go through the phase of isolation and making sure that they are negative, go through the three tests, and then they have to stay in the managed environment throughout the event. And I think you've seen this in other events as well. For example, the IPL. So there are ways of doing this. But yes, in effect, they go into the management environment, and they have to stay in that environment until the end of the tournament, and we make sure we keep them safe when they're travelling around and when they're at the stadium," he said.

Marshall does understand the attention cricketers get from the fans but says that with an eye on the COVID-19 scenario, social distancing will have to be followed.

"Yes, I have been in those hotel lobbies over the years and seen the enthusiasm and how close the fans want to get and of course the selfie opportunity. The players will be kept separate, so they have to stay within the managed event environment, so there won't be mixing physically directly between fans and the players. And I'm sure everybody understands.

"Once we've got through that first period of checking that people are clear of COVID-19. We know they're all vaccinated as well, which is brilliant, as long as we maintain that sensible separation and that group maintain those disciplines, we shouldn't get other problems throughout the tournament. So I'm afraid this World Cup there will not be an arm around the shoulder selfie opportunity with the players," he said in reply to an ANI query.

But ICC's Head of Integrity has revealed that players will be allowed to walk out of the hotel rooms, but with an eye on COVID-19 guidelines.

"Yes, so we think it's very important that people get the chance to do other recreation, other sports and see a bit of the country that they're in and two lovely countries to visit. There are arrangements in place, but it will be controlled and they have to stay in a managed environment. But for example, it will be possible for them to play golf on a golf course, where we have set aside the area for them, and we can keep them separate from other people. So we maintain the managed environment, but we do allow people to do things other than sit in their hotel room," he pointed.

Marshall is also practical and says a couple of cases might come up despite all precautions and in such a scenario, it will be important to not panic and let medical experts take over.

"Yeah. So talking to all the other global events, we should expect that we will get some positive tests, where someone is confirmed as a positive test, it will be referred to the biosafety scientific advisory group. In simple terms, someone who has tested positive will isolate for 10 days and someone who is defined as a close contact - which is very close physical contact for more than 15 minutes without wearing a mask - will isolate for six days. One of the advantages of having an expert panel, they will be seen for what they are, which is people with genuine expertise in this area and an independent chair, the direction will come from them.

"We know from the other sports, the Olympics in Tokyo is a good example, they have no cases of competitors outdoors taking part in sports passing on COVID-19. So, playing outdoors on a cricket field against another team will be deemed I think very low risk to the other players. But it won't be me giving that view. It will be people properly qualified in this area who will explain the level of risk and what should be done," he explained.

Marshall reiterates that not just players, but even fans need to come together and follow protocols to ensure the tournament is a success.

"Yeah, so within the stadiums, masks are required under the current rules. But of course, rules change quite frequently as the situation develops. So I would encourage everyone to monitor the website to make sure that the rules within the stadiums for fans are followed correctly. And I know there are people employed within the stadium who check that all the rules are being complied with and give firm reminders to anyone, for example, who's not wearing the mask.

"In terms of have we set out to the teams what the rules are? Yes. So they've all had a detailed plan sent to them. So they completely understand the rules they have to follow throughout the tournament. And we've had some good questions back on that. And I think there's a good level of understanding of the expectation. All these events depend on good discipline. And I think you make a very good point. If people stick to the rules, and maintain their discipline, we should not have any problems. We would expect the management of any team who finds people not adhering to the rules to take that very seriously. We do not want to see any breaches. We don't think that will be, we think people understand how important this is. But we also expect team management to strictly adhere and ensure their squads adhere to the rules that we have sent them," he said. (ANI)

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