Vaccination passports being considered as clubs focus on getting crowds back into venues
The domestic game is expected to report combined losses in excess of £100 million by the time all 18 first-class counties have published their accounts at the end of April, according to Neil Snowball, the ECB’s managing director of county cricket.
Snowball, whose final season as Warwickshire’s chief executive last year was dominated by the Covid-19 outbreak, added that the county game will begin this year’s campaign on April 8 with “optimism, but a degree of uncertainty” after achieving the sport’s first aim of “getting everybody to the start line” after the existential threats of the 2020 summer.
The figure floated by Snowball differs from the £100 million losses incurred by the ECB in 2020 – which were in themselves mitigated by the successful staging of a full programme of England men’s international fixtures, which fulfilled the board’s broadcasting deal with Sky Sports.
Instead, it reflects the lost ticket sales, hospitality and events that would ordinarily have boosted the coffers of the individual clubs, including conferences and weddings. “The larger venues that have more diverse revenue streams have copped it more than others,” Snowball said. “The bottom line is we need to get people back, we need to get the crowds back.”
There are a range of measures available to the first-class counties while the impact of the pandemic is enduring, including ECB loans and the government’s confirmation of a £300 million summer sports survival package.
According to the ECB’s roadmap, 25 percent capacity crowds will be permitted from May 17 and 50 percent capacity from June 21, and Snowball said that the counties were considering all options – including the continued use of masks and vaccination passports – to ensure that the return of crowds goes without a hitch.
“There has been a lot of talk. We have gone from no passports to suddenly now looking at a Covid certification,” Snowball said. “We will explore anything that enables us to get our members back and our spectators back. At the moment it looks like that might happen.
“If you look at June 21, it is going to be a question of balancing three things. One, if there is going to be some sort of passport or Covid certification, second is testing, third is some sort of social distancing and we have said we will do whatever we are asked to do to make sure we can get the maximum number of people back.
“The ideal would be some sort of certification with an element of social distancing and probably wearing masks.
“The first lot of games will be behind closed doors. From May 17, as per the roadmap, we can get the venues back to 25 per cent and that is exactly what they are gearing up for.
“We are trying to be as optimistic as we can about June 21, the demand for tickets has been huge and venues will be trying to get maximum crowds in.
“We will know about a month out. I am really hopeful we can get significant crowds back.”