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St. Kitts & Nevis to serve as Caribbean Premier League hub

The Caribbean Premier League (CPL) has announced it will stage the entirety of its 2021 tournament at Warner Park in St. Kitts & Nevis, with 50% capacity targeted for fan attendance during the Twenty20 cricket competition.

The CPL was the first major franchise T20 tournament to resume play last year following the outbreak of COVID-19, choosing to stage its games behind closed doors at Queen’s Park Oval and Brian Lara Academy Stadium in Trinidad & Tobago.

For 2021, all 33 games will be played at Warner Park (pictured), commencing on August 28. Last year the tournament was successfully staged in a bio-secure bubble and the CPL operations team will again be working closely with the tournament’s medical advisors, local agencies and the St. Kitts & Nevis government to ensure the successful staging of the 2021 event. The CPL said St. Kitts & Nevis has no COVID-19 transmission and is one of the safest places to visit in the Caribbean.

Pete Russell, the CPL’s chief operating officer, said: “As was demonstrated during the 2020 tournament the CPL is a massive boost for the host country with $51.5m (£37.1m/€42.6m) delivered in sponsorship value for Trinidad & Tobago. We are really looking forward to giving St. Kitts & Nevis the exposure they deserve.” 

Jonel Powell, St. Kitts & Nevis Minister for Education, Youth, Sports and Culture, added: “We are greatly confident that the hosting of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) in St. Kitts & Nevis in 2021 will stimulate much-needed economic activity, especially for small and medium-sized local businesses.

“As it relates to COVID-19 we will maintain our vigilance to ensure that our health protocols are not compromised and that the country remains protected from any serious spread of the Coronavirus. It will most certainly help to revive the tourism sector that has been struggling for over a year, under the weight of the deadly COVID-19 global pandemic. Therefore, the economic impact is forecast to be significant.”

The 8,000-seat Warner Park was developed for the Caribbean’s staging of the 2007 Cricket World Cup. Fans will be permitted entry to the stadium, as long as they can display proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

“We were the first to lead back last year, so I think we led the way in terms of the protocols that we put in place that obviously have now become part of most events,” Russell said, according to the ESPNcricinfo website. “We were the first large-scale cricket tournament back and that went very successfully.

“You’ve seen that others have had their problems so the planning and detail that needs to go into making these things happen is so important. I think to have the first fully vaccinated tournament is again just showing the world the way forward and I’m sure that this will encourage people, certainly in the federation, to get their vaccines so that they can come and watch some great cricket.”

While the teams will utilise six grounds around St. Kitts & Nevis for training sessions, Russell admits the challenge of playing all 33 games at one venue will be a significant one. He added: “As any agronomist will know, to play 33 games in one venue is going to be challenging. But what we are blessed with in St. Kitts is that there are six grounds around the island all of which can host the training.

“We’re totally aware of the challenges. We’re blessed again that the soil in the wicket in St. Kitts is some of the best in the region. So we’re very comfortable that we’ll be able to prepare some incredibly good decks for the players as we always have done.

“We use a pitch consultant based out of New Zealand. He deals with Eden Park and has also dealt with a number of US grounds as well and has worked for the ICC (International Cricket Council). He’ll be coming into St. Kitts probably 10 weeks before the tournament to assist and make sure everything from grass growth through to preparation is on track.

“They’ve worked very closely with the grounds people in St. Kitts before and are very comfortable and confident that we’ll be preparing some great wickets.”

Image: St. Kitts & Nevis Government/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size