Recreational cricket’s delayed return is down to social aspects of the game, prime minister Boris Johnson has said.
With professional cricket returning as England take on the West Indies this month, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has been in discussions with the British government about the resumption of the recreational side of the sport.
Johnson described cricket balls as “a vector of disease” last month amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but in the same address he announced that bars, restaurants, outdoor gyms and cinema would reopen on 4 July, leading to frustration among amateur cricket players.
In an interview with LBC on Friday, the prime minister was asked why recreational tennis has been allowed to resume in recent weeks, but not cricket, to which he replied: “It’s a valid point. There are reasons. These debates have gone round and round.
“There are various other considerations. The longer answer, which I think probably Chris Whitty would give, if he were here, about cricket [is that] the risk is not so much the ball, although that may be a factor.
“It’s the teas, it’s the changing rooms and so on and so forth. There are other factors involved that generate proximity, which you might not get in a game of tennis.”
The ECB has sent guidance sent to clubs, specifically stating that the route to a return of amateur cricket would involve a step with “no use of changing rooms”.
In response to Johnson’s comments on LBC on Friday, they said: “The ECB believes that cricket is a non-contact sport, with very low risks of exposure, and that it can be played as safely as many other activities being currently permitted.
“The detailed submission we have shared with the Department For Digital, Culture, Media and Sport includes advice on how we can stage cricket safely and mitigate all potential risks.
“We believe this advice – allied with strict hygiene measures – means recreational cricket should be viewed as safe by the UK Government, which would be welcome news to our nation’s recreational cricketers.”
In May, The Cricketer carried out an investigation into the impact of Covid-19 on the sport. In that report, a member of the government’s special advisory group SAGE suggested that August was a viable return date for the recreational game.
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