COVID-19 events news: ECB sets county start date, World Rugby Sevens Series concluded

County Cricket

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has given its approval for the men’s county cricket season to begin on August 1, with options for both red-ball and white-ball competitions up for discussion.

The 2020 County Championship was due to have commenced on April 12, but this was postponed due to COVID-19, with all clubs, aside from Lancashire and Surrey, electing to furlough players and staff under the UK government’s job retention plan.

The ECB has delayed the season start on a number of occasions, most recently last month, and in April it was forced to announce that its flagship new competition, The Hundred, will debut in the summer of 2021 and not this year as originally planned.

The ECB said the formats to be played during the delayed men’s county season are due to be agreed by the 18 first-class counties in early July, with a new fixture schedule to be published thereafter.

A dedicated working group with representatives from the counties and ECB has been formed to provide specific focus to domestic cricket, while COVID-19 continues to impact the game. This will include the development of a single set of operating procedures that will incorporate cricket operations, venue operations and medical protocols.

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said: “This follows extensive consultation between the 18 First-Class Counties, the Professionals Cricketers’ Association and ECB and has only been achievable thanks to the significant hard work that continues to occur as we prepare for a domestic season unlike any the game has faced before.

“It must be stressed that the safety of our players, staff and officials has been the first priority through all discussions and government guidance will continue to shape our planning and preparation.”

The BBC reports two competitions of four-day and Twenty20 cricket have been under discussion, based on regional groups. The potential for allowing fans into grounds at some stage of the amended season would depend on a relaxation of government restrictions.

Previous seasons have seen some counties begin to offer live streaming of their games, and Gloucestershire chief executive Will Brown told BBC Radio Gloucestershire: “We invested at the start of the year in a lot of good high definition cameras.

“We now have a proper production in which you can see the ball going to the boundary, rather than just end-on shots. That, with a good bit of BBC radio commentary over the top, and we’re as good as anybody.”

World Rugby Sevens Series

World Rugby has today (Tuesday) announced the cancellation of the remaining rounds of its 2019-20 Sevens Series due to the “ongoing and dynamic global nature” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following a comprehensive consultation process the remaining rounds of the women’s and men’s series in Langford, London, Paris, Singapore and Hong Kong will no longer take place, bringing the 2020 campaign to an early conclusion.

World Rugby said the decision follows “detailed and constructive” dialogue with the host and participating unions, and has been taken with the health and wellbeing of the rugby community and the wider public as top priority, and in line with the relevant national government and public health authority advice.

New Zealand will be awarded both the women’s and men’s titles courtesy of being top of the standings before the pandemic interrupted the Series with five of the eight women’s rounds and six of the 10 men’s rounds successfully completed.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: “Rugby sevens is a key driver of global growth for our sport, particularly in emerging nations, and it firmly remains a top priority for our organisation. As we begin to see light at the end of the tunnel, 2021 has potential to be a very exciting year for rugby sevens with the Tokyo Olympic Games on the horizon.”