Cricket and tennis to benefit in Government’s £300million summer sports recovery package

Cricket is in line to receive a significant chunk of a £300million summer sports recovery package that the Chancellor is expected to announce at Wednesday’s Budget.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 8:42 am
Updated Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 2:46 pm
Crowds won't be able to return to The Ageas Bowl until mid-May under the Government's roadmap out of lockdown.

The England and Wales Cricket Board, which revealed last September that the pandemic had already cost the sport more than £100m, with the overall financial impact likely to be double that amount, welcomed the support, describing it as ‘a lifeline for parts of the game’.

The LV= Insurance County Championship gets under way on April 8, more than a month before the earliest date – May 17 - limited numbers of fans might be able to return to sporting venues under the Government’s easing of coronavirus restrictions.

Hampshire’s first six Championship games will be played behind closed doors – trips to Leicestershire, Surrey and Middlesex and home matches with Gloucestershire, Middlesex and Somerset.

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Providing the current roadmap remains unaltered, spectators will be able to return to The Ageas Bowl for the first time since September 2019 for the four-day game against Leicestershire due to start on May 20.

Under the roadmap, Hampshire’s ground can welcome a 25 per cent capacity crowd - though in fairness gates for Championship games struggle to attract a few thousand spectators.

Hampshire’s first one-day home game of 2021 is a Vitality Blast T20 game on June 28 – two days after The Ageas Bowl hosts an England v Sri Lanka T20 international.

By then, of course, all restrictions could have ended - June 21 is the date the entire country are currently counting down towards.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: ‘As a huge cricket fan I know there’s nothing that says summer more than watching your favourite team.

‘I can’t wait for sports grounds to be filled with fans with atmosphere again – this £300m cash boost will help make that a reality.’

Other support sports like tennis and horse racing are also set to benefit from the recovery package.

Details on how the money will be distributed, how organisations can apply and timeframes are set to be announced in the coming weeks.

An ECB spokesperson said: ‘We welcome the Government’s intention to extend the support given to winter sports so that cricket and other summer sports are given a financial safety net and are able to bid as well.

‘Playing behind closed doors for all of last season has already had a severe financial impact on cricket and that will continue this year until full crowds are able to return, while the recreational game has also suffered financially.

‘This support could be a lifeline for parts of the game and we look forward to seeing the full details of how this funding will be distributed and how organisations can apply.’

In addition to the £300 million summer sports recovery package, Sunak is also expected to reveal a £150 million fund to help local communities save struggling pubs, sports clubs, theatres and Post Offices.

Some £2.8 million will go towards helping to fund a joint UK and Ireland bid to host the 2030 football World Cup.

The Government originally announced a £300m sport winter survival package in November last year, covering 11 sports.

It has already proved highly controversial in football - the National League South and North divisions were declared null and void last month after the Government said clubs would have to apply for loans from the Winter Package rather than receive grants.

Horse racing and tennis were also mentioned in the Winter Survival Package, to receive £40m and £5m respectively.