UK prime minister Boris Johnson has given the nod for recreational cricket to “resume in time for next weekend”.
Earlier on Friday, Johnson pinpointed the risks of cricket teas and changing rooms as reasons in explaining the continued suspension of the recreational game, but claimed “the third umpire has been invoked” when heading onto his U-turn in a briefing at Downing Street.
“Having been stumped on the radio this morning on that point, on the science again, and having been asked which was the exact vector of the disease I sought scientific advice and the medical opinion – the third umpire has been invoked,” said Johnson.
“What I can say is that we do want as fast as possible to get cricket back, and we will be publishing guidelines in the next few days so that cricket can resume in time for next weekend. I think that’s what we’re able to say today.
In response to Johnson’s statement, the ECB said: “We are delighted that the UK Government have given their permission for recreational cricket to return from next weekend. We will shortly be publishing our approved guidelines to help clubs and players prepare for cricket’s return.”
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty explained issues surrounding playing cricket, highlighting how “it brings together a much larger group of people in terms of linking households than you do the six people that is laid out as the maximum number people who should be meeting. even outdoors”.
“But it is perfectly possible to have cricket where people do keep their distance,” added Whitty, “and provided people don’t do things that are clearly not sensible, ranging from hugging the bowler if they’ve just bowled someone for a duck through to spitting on the ball, it should be possible to make the game itself really very safe because it’s an outdoor sport at a distance.
“It is not a contact sport in the sense that some of the higher risk outdoor sports are. There are however risks associated which we just need to think about and deal with and these are perfectly manageable, but the particular ones are people going in afterwards in a crowded space, for example into a pavilion to have tea or a beer.”
In the ECB’s roadmap for the return of the recreational cricket, step four – which involves matches with social-distancing measures – any use of indoor facilities and hospitality will be in line with government guidelines. Currently, people are only able to train outdoors with social distancing.
In a press release the ECB added that government’s approval will now lead to the move to step four. However, at this moment in time, the government’s announcement only applies to England, not Wales.