Southern Premier Cricket League chairman fears entire 2020 season could be cancelled

The chairman of the Southern Premier Cricket League fears the whole of the 2020 season could be cancelled.

Monday, 30th March 2020, 11:59 am
Updated Monday, 30th March 2020, 1:13 pm
Portsmouth take on Havant in the Southern Premier League. Who knows how much cricket the clubs could be playing in 2020? Picture: Jonathan Brady.

Steve Vear was responding to the stark warning delivered by England’s deputy chief medical officer on Sunday.

Dr Jenny Harries said it could be six months before life in the UK returns to ‘normal.’

‘This is not to say we would be in complete lockdown for six months,’ Dr Harries stated, before insisting the UK had to be ‘responsible’ in its actions and reduce social distancing measures ‘gradually’.

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‘Listening to what the deputy chief medical officer had to say, that’s probably put paid to the 2020 season to be honest,’ Vear confessed.

‘Even if general restrictions about people going out of their homes are lifted, you might still have restrictions in place about sporting gatherings.’

The Hampshire Cricket League have said competitive cricket will still take place in 2020 if the fixture list can be started before the end of June. But if the season does not start until after that date, it will only be on a ‘friendly’ basis with no promotion and relegation.

Vear said: ‘The Hampshire League have been very sensible, and I’m grateful they have been pro-active.

‘I am sure we would align ourselves with the Hampshire League.’

Vear will know more about his league’s plans for the next few months when the committee meet by video link this Thursday.

‘It’s all well outside our hands,’ he added. ‘We need the government to lift their restrictions and then we need the ECB to lift the current ban on recreational cricket.

‘The clubs would need a few weeks to get their grounds in order.

‘It’s a difficult situation.

‘It would be nice if we could facilitate some cricket this summer, even if it’s just a few weeks in August.’

At present, the Southern Premier League is due to start on May 2 - with Havant home to Hook & Newnham in the top flight and Portsmouth visiting Rowledge in the second tier. Those games are obviously unlikely to take place, but there are five Saturdays in August on which it is hoped matches might be played - even if only as friendlies.

Vear’s thoughts are echoed by Robert Pack, the vice chairman of the Northamptonshire League.

‘Even if each team gets two matches, just being outside with your friends and playing, I would deem that a success considering where we are at the moment,’ he said.

‘This is recreational cricket and just to be out there and playing would be a winning situation.

‘But when you look at it quite sensibly and without a cricket hat on, it may well be the case that we don’t play this year.

‘I might be being a bit over the top and people may well disagree but that’s just me looking at it through a bit of perspective.’

Cricket, like many grassroots sports, has faced a constant battle in recent times to try and keep its numbers high.

The fear is that, following a summer of little or no cricket, some existing players will just walk away never to return.

Vear said: ‘Cricket is under continual pressure with regard to its numbers, and it’s important to try and encourage people into the sport.

‘That’s why initiatives like Dynamos and All Star Cricket are important, and new competitions like The Hundred.

‘But it is a worrying time for a lot of sporting clubs, and cricket clubs are no different. A lot will be worried about the here and now.’

Pack added: ‘There could be good and bad that comes out of all this.

‘There will be people champing at the bit to go out and play but we might lose cricketers out of this because people could find other things in the meantime.

‘We could lose people or we could even find that there are those who want to get back into it after seeing it disappear for a short time.

‘It could go two ways. For some, it will bring people together and for others they could have players who wander away so we just have to see what happens.’

That’s the bottom line - no-one knows at the moment just what impact Covid-19 has on recreational sport, not just cricket.

The short-term impact - cancellation of many forthcoming events - has been easy to measure.

The long-term impact is far harder to calculate.