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Warwickshire seek ‘validation event’ status for Edgbaston Test

Warwickshire County Cricket Club is said to be seeking permission for Edgbaston’s staging of England’s June Test match against New Zealand to become a ‘validation event’ under the Government’s reopening strategy.

The game is due to commence on June 10 which, under current COVID-19 guidelines, means that Edgbaston will be restricted to 25% capacity.

However, the ESPNcricinfo website reports that Warwickshire has written to Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), requesting that the Test be used as a validation event.

This would allow Edgbaston to welcome a larger crowd as a test as to how higher capacities can be safely accommodated once the COVID-19 protocols are fully lifted, which is currently scheduled for June 21 onwards.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, and Ian Ward, Birmingham City Council leader, are also said to be signatories of the letter, with Warwickshire’s proposal not said to include the need to utilise so-called vaccine passports.

Warwickshire is said to have asked for a response by the first week of May, granting it enough time to organise a ticket ballot for the game, which is close to a sell-out under the current 25% capacity rules.

ESPNcricinfo said Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), owner of Lord’s, may look to follow suit for the London ground’s staging of its New Zealand Test on June 2-6. “We are working closely with the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) and Government and, if required, would be ready to host it as a pilot event as part of the government’s event research programme,” an MCC spokesperson said.

A number of the UK’s leading sports bodies last week united to back COVID-19 passports as a “credible option” to ensure stadia and arenas can work to full capacity from June. An open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, plus the leaders of the other political parties, was signed by the Premier League, English Football League (EFL), Football Association (FA), Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL), All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), ECB, Rugby Football Union (RFU), Rugby Football League (RFL) and Silverstone Circuit.

Sporting event organisers are currently planning for the return of small numbers of spectators from May 17. At this stage of the process all spectators will need to follow social distancing requirements and attendance will be capped at a maximum of 25% of larger venues’ capacity.

The Government earlier confirmed that the April 18 FA Cup semi-final between Leicester City and Southampton, as well as the finals of the Carabao Cup and FA Cup, will serve as test events for the return of fans.

Up to 4,000 fans will be permitted at Wembley for the FA Cup semi-final, with capacity to increase to 8,000 for the Carabao Cup final between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City on April 25. It is then hoped that up to 21,000 fans will be allowed at Wembley for the FA Cup final on May 15.

The Snooker World Championships, which take place in Sheffield from April 17 to May 3, will also trial the return of fans. Organiser last week said that the final at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre is set to go ahead without capacity restrictions after fan attendance plans for the event were unveiled.

The pilots will form part of the Government’s Events Research Programme (ERP), which will be used to provide scientific data and research into how small and large-scale events could be permitted in line with the roadmap outlined in February.