April 12th 2020 was going to be a day in cricket lovers diary that they would have been looking forward to for a long time. Under normal circumstances this day would have seen the opening round of matches in the County Championship season, but as like all sport around the world due to the corona virus situation, this has meant a delay to the start of the season.
On Friday, the governing body of Cricket the ECB announced that no professional cricket will be played in England and Wales until at least 28th May due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The board approved the recommendation to delay the start of the season following discussions with the First Class Counties, the MCC and the PCA.
It was agreed that, given the current information available, a seven-week delay to the start of the season is the most appropriate approach.
The ECB have a strategy plan to start the season in June, July or August, with the priority on starting in June, including the three test series against the West Indies, the Vitality Blast and England’s women’s schedule against India.
Should the season commence in June, this would then leave the County Championship programme under threat. Normally, the counties would play 14 championship matches starting in the early part of the season in April and finishing with a handful of matches at the back end of the season in September.
Understandably, it looks ominous for the four-day tournament as the ECB will surely prioritise the money-making competitions in the season- The Blast, scheduled to start on 28th May- and the forthcoming new competition The Hundred, set to run in July and August- which the ECB have been ramming down everybody’s throat’s for a while.
By June, the counties would have already played almost half of their championship matches, so with a truncated season ahead of us it would appear the ECB has two options with the Championship, either scrap it completely, or have a period of seven weeks set aside at the end of the season to fit seven matches in with the season continuing until October. Daft as this may appear, under normal circumstances the weather in October is normally fairly settled, the only slight problem would be the light, but you could still have games starting at 10 and finishing at 5.
It isn’t just the Championship that is under threat, the Royal London Cup 50 over One Day competition would normally be a part of the season, but with a shortened time span left this is another competition that looks to be axed.
Overall, this is very worrying times for all 18 counties, all of which must rely constantly on the revenue of the Blast and money from the ECB. A shortened season will mean less games played, fewer people watching, equals little revenue coming in.
For the past few years there have been a few counties on the brink of going under, only saved by the money coming in from the T20 Blast and ECB. With everything still very much up in the air at the moment, this is clearly worrying times ahead for Cricket in this country.