Date: 27th Nov 2021
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LIVERPOOL ECHO 26/06/2020 Love Lane Liverpool Competition chief hopeful of a swift return to action - once the green light is given.

Date: 26th June 2020

LIVERPOOL ECHO 26/06/2020  Love Lane Liverpool Competition chief hopeful of a swift return to action - once the green light is given.

Still plenty of questions surrounding the amateur game - but the answers shouldn't be too far away

"It’s probably not in the top 20 of Boris Johnson’s biggest foot-in-mouth moments, but his insistence this week that cricket balls were “a natural vector of disease” will have set teeth on edge at clubs across the land.

At a time when thousands of us are crying out for a runaround on a Saturday afternoon – and at a time when everyone is understandably a bit twitchy about the word “disease” – the phrase was not what the recreational game needed to hear.

On the plus side, it has provoked something of a backlash. The ECB casually threw a passive-aggressive googly into the mix with a statement saying “we are heartened that the Government has already permitted the return of OTHER ball sports” (my emphasis, just about) and the Telegraph launched a campaign to get the game back on.

“On July 4, I can take my son’s cricket team to a restaurant but they can’t play a game of cricket. That cannot be right,” wrote former England skipper Michael Vaughan, launching the (paywalled) campaign.

It is not, sadly, quite as simple as that.

It’s unfortunate that the two “other ball sports” which the ECB chose to highlight were tennis and basketball, in a week which saw Novak Djokovic and several other players test positive for coronavirus after a tennis tournament in Croatia, during which they were pictured socialising – and playing basketball.

So while the sport of cricket itself might be relatively safe, there is still a level of risk involved. Not for the first time, things are not as straightforward as Michael Vaughan would have you believe.

There are false equivalencies being drawn with the West Indian tourists playing a warm-up game at Emirates Old Trafford ahead of their three-Test series which starts on July 8, but recreational cricket has a lot more questions to answer than the professional game.

How do players get to games, for example? What about the ones who don’t drive, because of their age or for whatever reason? They can’t all pile into one car without breaking social distancing rules.

And if we cut post-match socialising to a minimum, in order to reduce the risk of transmission, we’re removing a major source of income which clubs use to offset the cost of putting on cricket matches.

The red ball is a bit of a red herring compared to these issues. But there is still the question of who would enforce a saliva ban, and how, given many games at the lower levels of the local pyramid get by with one proper umpire or fewer.

But John Williams, chairman of the Love Lane Liverpool Competition, is confident all these questions can be resolved.

And he says he’s seen an overwhelmingly positive response to the idea – formulated by the Competition’s Restart Group – of getting the game on via a number of localised four-team groups, playing in an eight-week round robin competition.

Details are yet to be finalised, but play is due to commence on August 1. Should recreational cricket get the green light before then, clubs will be free to use the time to organise friendlies.

Mr Williams said: “100% of the clubs want to play, particularly 1st and 2nd team cricket.

“The concept of groups has been well accepted; they all understand that’s the most appropriate way to play.

“We’re pinning our hopes on the Government and the ECB reaching an agreement and saying recreational cricket is approved – whenever that time is, our competition will start on August 1.

“We know from replies we’ve received that the clubs want some certainty. They’ve had enough uncertainty.”

The ECHO understands urgent discussions are under way between the ECB and the Government regarding a restart date – speaking personally, Mr Williams believes it will be approved not long after the Great Relaxation of July 4.

“There’s every expectation that it will get sorted, and it will be approved,” he added. “So whenever it is approved, we want everybody to be ready for the competition.”

The 35 Competition clubs are all at different stages of preparation, according to Mr Williams. There are also issues to iron out regarding the availability of umpires, and to what extent clubs will be able to open their facilities in a safe, lockdown-compliant way.

The Competition is also waiting for precise guidance from the ECB regarding the ball – in particular, how frequently it will need to be changed, and where all the extra balls will come from.

But Mr Williams is confident a resolution can be reached.

He added: “Whatever the requirements are, they will be the rules of our game. And we will follow them.”


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