Cricket Ireland has today released its COVID-19 Safe Return to Play Protocols (SRTPP) that will guide a safe return-to-play for thousands of club cricketers across Ireland from this week. However, due to the shortened season and protocols in place, the Cricket Ireland Cricket Committee has approved the proposal that only one of the three national cup competitions can be held in 2020.
Elaine Nolan, Participation Director for Cricket Ireland, said:
“With the release of these protocols today, we can finally kickstart competitive club cricket – cricket matches can start in the Republic from this week in line with Union fixture schedules, and across Northern Ireland pending the move into Step 4 - which is expected on the 17th of July.”
“We are pleased that the Irish Government’s Sport Expert Group has approved the protocols after an intense period of consultation across our sport. This has truly been a collective effort and the positive outcome that has been achieved is that the cricket season we once feared would be lost, will be starting in earnest this month.”
About the new SRTPP protocols, Nolan said:
“The protocols, which also meet the framework set out by the NI Executive, outline public health and safety requirements required to allow competitive play to resume. They also build upon the previously released return-to-training protocols – but we recognise that this is not quite a return to cricket as normal. It feels different to have to keep venues and facilities sanitised and safe, and to maintain social distancing where possible, but we also understand that this is the compromise necessary to allow our summer sport played by tens of thousands every weekend to go ahead.”
“We have been through a detailed consultation with Sport Ireland, Sport NI, Provincial Unions, umpires, players and other stakeholder groups to help shape the structure of the season in 2020. Similar to every sport, the balance we have tried to strike is getting back out there to play our sport as normally as possible against protecting the health and safety of players, officials, volunteers and the wider community.”
“Cricket is a non-contact team sport, but there are risks all the same that we’ve had to address in our COVID-conscious world. Most pertinently, cricket often sees players and officials in close proximity over long durations – more than three hours for a T20 game, and longer for other forms of the game.”
“The cricket ball is also a possible virus transmission medium and – in normal times - on-field activity can include celebrations with body contact, and shared use of facilities, drink bottles, towels and equipment. Some participants, such as umpires, scorers, match referees and support staff, are often in vulnerable age categories, and at a higher risk of severe illness due to COVID-19, particularly umpires who spend the greatest amount of time in close proximity to players. All of these aspects of the game had to be considered to reduce the risk of virus transmission.”
“The fruits of that consultation were put to the Sport Ireland Expert Group and the conclusion was that shorter duration activity provides less risk than longer duration activity. As such, supported by the Provincial Unions and Cricket Committee, T20 will be the longest format of cricket played at club level for now. This will remain under review, but competitions will be structured around this format at the club level.”
About the national club cup competitions, Nolan said:
“A further decision has been required at the national level regarding the three all-Ireland cup competitions in 2020. In order to comply with the protocols and manage issues around travel and competition integrity, the Cricket Ireland Cricket Committee has endorsed the proposal that the much-loved 50- and 40-over competitions – the Clear Currency Irish Senior Cup and Clear Currency National Cup –cannot be held in 2020. While disappointing for fans and players alike, this will allow clubs and Unions to focus primarily on local competitions instead.”
“The good news is that we have agreed with Cricket Committee and Provincial Unions that we hope to proceed with the All-Ireland T20 Cup competition that will determine the best T20 club side in Ireland. This would provide a fitting end to what has truly been a challenging season for all of us.”
“We continue to be grateful to the whole cricket family for their cooperation and patience as we have steered the sport to a place where activity can resume, and we wish everyone a safe and enjoyable return.”
The detailed COVID-19 documents are available at: www.cricketireland.ie/covid-19 and any enquiries or issues that arise should be directed to Provincial Unions via the nominated COVID-19 Safety Support Officer.