COVID-19: Future of cricket still uncertain, says ECB CEO

The England and Wales Cricket Board has survived a summer of uncertainties amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, but Chief Executive Tom Harrison believes the next six months are “fraught with danger”.

England and Wales Cricket Board pioneered the return of international cricket during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gave the cricket world a successful model of the bio-secure bubble that is also being followed for the ongoing Indian Premier League in the UAE.

Even as the world is learning to live with the virus that still does not have an anti-dote, the threat still looms large on cricket from the economic impact of the Sars Cov-2 virus that had brought the global businesses to an abrupt halt.

Harrison has said that the ECB is faced with the 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”.

The £1.1 billion broadcast deal has enabled the ECB to survive one of its worst financial concerns, but Harrison says the trouble is far from over as cricket heads into 2021.

Despite the COVID-19 threat to the entire summer of cricket, England has managed to pull off three international series while also partially resuming the domestic cricket, including a condensed T20 Blast and women’s international season was as well as the Bob Willis Trophy and the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.

But the professional The Hundred league had to be deferred to the next year.

The turmoil according to the ECB has cost a loss of £200 million. The cricket governing body had to take 62 jobs to salvage the financial turmoil.

Harrison fears the situation is far from normal. “We’re not anywhere near through this crisis yet. Other sports have highlighted that the next six months are fraught with danger. 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,” he reportedly told LeadersWeek.direct.

“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 also shared what all the ECB had to do to host international series, which enabled the board to get some share of its broadcast revenue even as the entire gate revenue and a major chunk of sponsorship sales were lost.

“The ECB has lost more than 100 million pounds of revenue and 800 days of live spectators in stadia. The consequences of that are now being felt by people across the game who are losing livelihoods and are going through some very difficult moments in their lives,” said Harrison.

“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,” skysport.com has quoted Harrison as saying.

“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. That’s why the focus on safety was so acute.”

Though the international calendar remains hugely uncertain, the ECB is hopeful of hosting the World Test Championship final in 2021 despite the major disruption the competition has faced during the pandemic.

England are also scheduled to tour India next year. The Board of Control for Cricket in India president Sourav Ganguly has expressed hope to host the visiting English team in India.

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