MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - English cricket’s governing body said it has been given the leading role for all sport in the country, including soccer, in examining how to create ‘bio-secure’ venues as leagues look for ways to restart their competitions without fans.
Tom Harrison, chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), said his organisation has been asked by the British government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS), to look into how all sports might be able to resume in secure environments once COVID-19 restrictions are eased.
“The ECB has been asked to lead by DCMS across football, horse racing, tennis and rugby,” Harrison said in comments reported by the website Cricinfo.
“There has been a lot of communication between sports, particularly around health, as we are trying to guarantee safety.
“I had a conference call with the head of the FA (Football Association) and the RFU (Rugby Football Union) about a range of topics: working together; how we share information about playing behind closed doors. I’m speaking to the Premier League later. We’re facing very similar challenges and taking decisions as a sector,” he said.
The DCMS declined to comment on Harrison’s statement but it has been liaising with a number of sports bodies including the ECB on how things might work should the green light be given by the medical experts for sport to resume safely.
The ECB has suspended the professional game in the country until July 1, but England are due to face Pakistan in a three test series from July 30.
Harrison said that any attempt to play international cricket without fans would lead to a rethink on venues, with those best suited to a secure environment coming to the fore.
“What we have to be really careful with here is to understand that right now testing elite athletes or people in sport just cannot be a priority in the context of the national health crisis and the issues frontline workers and vulnerable people are facing,” Harrison said.
“Government tells us when the time is right. It’s not yet, clearly. We’re not lobbying the government; we’re working with them.”
On Saturday, the Football League (EFL) which organises the three divisions below the Premier League, highlighted testing of players and others involved in games as the key issue.
“Clearly, before any return to football can take place, suitable testing arrangements for participants must be in place and this is core to our current planning, as is ensuring there is absolutely no negative impact on the country’s front-line workers, the Emergency services, League and Club staff members,” the league said in a statement.
“The EFL’s medical advisor is working with a select group of medical professionals and sports scientists to ensure their collective expertise is utilised to address these issues. This group will consider the latest medical information and evidence from both in the UK and abroad, particularly around the viability and accessibility of the various COVID-19 tests that are currently available”.
The EFL said it “welcomes the current steps being taken by the UK Government to establish a group of governing bodies to look at the complex set of challenges facing the wider sporting industry.”
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Hugh Lawson