03 Dec

Cricket Australia is under pressure to relax its COVID-19 protocols for the Big Bash League (BBL) after backlash from players and coaches confused about what they can and cannot do in the competition's biosecure villages. 

There is widespread consternation about the restrictions in place in the BBL hubs at a time when the rest of the country is enjoying greater freedoms, and there are fears among some senior state officials that the rules currently in place will lead to players missing games according to The Sydney Morning Herald. 

The angst was conveyed to CA's medical team during a fiery compulsory online education session held via Zoom on Tuesday (1 December), where players and coaches voiced their disapproval at what they believe to be overbearing and contradictory rules. 

CA, which has found an unlikely ally in the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA), has the difficult task of finding a middle ground to ensure their procedures are robust enough so that the tournament is not affected should there be a coronavirus outbreak while also considering welfare issues for those involved. 

Players, particularly those based in Brisbane, are upset that CA's rules mean they will not be able to spend Christmas at home without family members having to follow prescribed protocols restricting their movement outside the house. If a player is living in a home hub, partners cannot work and children are unable to attend day care. 

There is talk among players some would be prepared to sit out matches so that the lives of family members are not disrupted, although this would mean players would have to serve three days isolation before re-entering the BBL bubble. 

A source present at the meeting said there was confusion among many who spoke. 

One Queensland-based player/coach at the meeting raised questions as to why players could dine at a restaurant while their family members were sitting at an adjacent table but were unable to see them at home without hub protocols being imposed. 

Another person was perplexed staff who prepared their meals, serviced their rooms and cleaned their laundry could be exposed to the wider community but players could not see their families. 

Others are describing CA's rules as "overkill", with one player/coach questioning why measures cannot simply mirror the relevant state guidelines. 

After a heated round of questioning dominated by an agitated person, bemused participants were advised that making their beds daily would help them get into a routine in the hub. 

Under a list of hub protocols effective from December 1, seen by the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, players are not allowed access to the mini bar or permitted to share meals with players and officials from other clubs. 

Players are also not to wear their team kit when in public, presumably to discourage approaches from fans. 

While trips to shops for essential purchases are allowed, players must keep their visit to less than five minutes and face masks are to be worn indoors. 

CA said on Wednesday that it was open to feedback in regards to restrictions. In its hub protocols document, CA says rules are "subject to change based on COVID-19 risks and COVID-19 landscape in Australia at the time". 

Measures in the hubs for the Sheffield Shield and the WBBL loosened after they started with players allowed to play golf and head to the beach. 

The ACA is conscious of players’ wishes but does not want to argue for changes that could put the competition at risk and endanger livelihoods of their members. The players union has strongly argued for players to have access to families but, aware of the game's broadcast rights conflict with Channel Seven, does not want to create a drama over the issue. 

John Stephenson 


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