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Opinion

The challenges for community cricket post-COVID-19

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Roar Rookie
21st May, 2020
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It’s all well and good to say professional competitions have to play behind closed doors in stadiums, but you can’t say the same for local tournaments at a local level.

At your local suburban ground it’s almost impossible to control restrictions around the public facilities given they’re surrounded by houses, parks and shops all used by the general public.

Moreover, it seems many leagues and associations around the country want cricket to start on time. They will play with different rules and regulations around hygiene and social distancing, but how could do this be done at the community level?

One place where community cricket is set to return is in the Northern Territory, which is great news for cricket in Australia. Cricket will start its regular season in the top end on 6 June. This is possible due to the NT’s low rate of COVID-19 allowing them to loosen their restrictions earlier than the rest of the country.

Cricket generic

(Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

All clubs in the NT will follow the COVID-19 safety plan assessment. This assessment is set guidelines that includes not shining balls, no contact celebrations and separate drinks for each player. These guidelines are possible at a professional or semi-professional level of cricket, but can you say the same at the community level?

In Victoria it is unlikely cricket will start in October, as the AFL will likely have its way playing through to later months than normal using the shared grounds. In addition to this, community football wants to play through this extended period as well, creating logistical issues for all levels of cricket.

Grounds are one problem, but hygiene practices are another. How will clubs be able to ensure that the long tradition of making afternoon tea for both teams is safe? These are questions that will be asked at a community level and will no doubt putt a bigger strain on club volunteers.

But to consider the start time, we could see a later season commencement for Premier Cricket, potentially in late November or early December with make-up days, playing Saturday and Sundays. Local associations and leagues could start even later with back-to-back games and more one-day and T20 Cricket. What the season will look like is up in the air and ultimately for the associations and Cricket Victoria to work out.

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Another spanner in the works is the recent staffing restructure at Cricket Victoria and the redirection of Cricket Australia money due to the state of the economy. There goes most of the major funding for cricket in Australia. This will impact all facets of cricket, including the recent success of women’s cricket, as funding will not spread around as well as it has in the past few years.

There’s a shortage of umpires in many of lower grades across the country. These games are usually officiated by the batting side. So with no official umpire, how well will social distancing and other restrictions be monitored? This is another issue that will need to be discussed at cricket board meetings across the country.

There is a lot for the cricket community to work through before local cricket will be able to play, not to mention there will be more restrictions on clubs to raise much-needed finances. Sport at the community level relies much more on the social aspect of matches than it does at the professional level, so with regulations restricting venue attendance to 100 people, how will clubs keep their doors open?

Community sport is going to look extremely different compared to what we’re used to. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone’s way of life and will continue to do so into the future, even once governments lift restrictions to allow a full return to sport.