28 Jul

English Counties are increasingly confident they will be able to welcome limited crowds to matches in both the Bob Willis Trophy first-class competition and the T20 Blast this summer.

The government has extended the pilot scheme for crowds returning to elite sport enabling up to 2,500 spectators to attend the first two days of Surrey’s Bob Willis Trophy match against Middlesex at the Kia Oval and Warwickshire’s match against Northamptonshire at Edgbaston, both of which start on Saturday.

Surrey were able to welcome 1,000 county members for their warm-up match against Middlesex on Sunday and yesterday and a further 1,000 will be at Edgbaston today and tomorrow for Warwickshire’s warm-up friendly with Worcestershire.

Other counties are now in discussion with their local Sports Safety Authority and Public Health England to demonstrate how they will comply with the government’s Stage Five guidance that allows the return of some spectators to grounds. It is hoped that the next pilot events at the Oval and Edgbaston will demonstrate further that cricket grounds could host about 20 to 30 per cent of their capacity safely.

Richard Gould, the Surrey chief executive, described the first day of their pilot match on Sunday as a “definite success” and the county are putting in place plans to more than double the size of the crowd for their first competitive match in the new competition. Smaller grounds feel they could safely welcome about 500 to 800 members for Bob Willis Trophy matches.

It is hoped that by September when the T20 Blast competition is in full swing, counties will be able to sell tickets to the public. The Blast gets under way on August 27 but for the moment ticket allocations will be limited to existing county members.

John Stephenson


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