Hampshire supporters could need Covid passport to watch games at The Ageas Bowl this year

The England and Wales Cricket Board is exploring the possibility of using coronavirus passports to allow fans into County Championship games this summer.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 6:33 pm
Updated Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 6:36 pm
Empty seats during last week's friendly between Hampshire and Northamptonshire at The Ageas Bowl. Spectators won't be allowed in until mid-May - and they might need a Covid passport to get in. Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images.

The new domestic season starts on April 8 but crowds will not be allowed in until at least May 17 as part of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

The final step of that roadmap is the return to pre-lockdown normality on June 21.

The ECB is open to any measure necessary to get spectators back in the grounds as soon as possible, including fans having to prove they have been vaccinated.

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The ECB’s managing director of County Cricket Neil Snowball said: ‘There has been a lot of talk. We have gone from no passports to suddenly now looking at a Covid certification.

‘We will explore anything that enables us to get our members back and our spectators back.

‘At the moment it looks like that might happen.

‘If you look at the June 21 date, it is going to be a question of balancing three things. One, if there is going to be some sort of passport or Covid certification, second is testing, third is some sort of social distancing and we have said we will do whatever we are asked to do to make sure we can get the maximum number of people back.

‘The ideal would be some sort of certification with an element of social distancing and probably wearing masks.

‘The first lot of games will be behind closed doors. From May 17, as per the roadmap, we can get the venues back to 25 per cent and that is exactly what they are gearing up for.

‘We are trying to be as optimistic as we can about June 21, the demand for tickets has been huge and venues will be trying to get maximum crowds in.

‘We will know about a month out. I am really hopeful we can get significant crowds back.’

Hampshire’s opening six County Championship group games will be played behind closed doors - away at Leicestershire, Surrey and Middlesex and at home to Gloucestershire, Middlesex and Somerset.

Spectators will be allowed in for the seventh, the home game against Leicestershire starting at The Ageas Bowl on May 20.

Hampshire’s opening home T20 Vitality Blast game takes place on June 28 - a week after all restrictions are currently due to have been lifted.

Before that, the World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand takes place between June 18-21, while England face Sri Lanka in a T20 international at the stadium on June 26. All tickets have already been sold for the latter fixture.

The ECB’s controversial Hundred tournament - featuring The Ageas Bowl-based Southern Brave franchise - does not begin until July 22, a month after all restrictions are due to be lifted.

The ECB confirmed that teams will again be awarded eight points for a winning draw in this year’s County Championship.

The change, brought in because of last season’s truncated campaign, will remain to incentivise the draw.