Kent’s season to begin in August
Kent’s season to begin in August

Kent will be playing cricket in August after The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) gave its approval for the professional men’s county cricket season to begin on August 1st.

The formats to be played during the delayed men’s county season are due to be agreed by the 18 First-Class Counties in early July, with a new fixture schedule to be published thereafter.

A commitment to play women’s domestic cricket in 2020 has also been made, but may differ from the planned rollout of the new women’s elite domestic structure.

The women’s elite domestic structure is the equivalent of the men’s county set-up and is formed of eight regions. Establishing a structure for a new competition during a pandemic has provided specific challenges for the women’s domestic game, most notably having the required medical personnel in place to handle stringent return-to-play protocols.

Preparation and planning for the season across the men’s and women’s domestic game remains subject to ongoing advice from Government and medical professionals with the safety of players, staff and officials the first priority.

The ECB Board has also approved the return to training of Men’s First-Class County players on or before 1 July. Plans for the new men’s season include options for red-ball and white-ball cricket.

A dedicated working group with representatives from the First-Class Counties and ECB has been formed to provide specific focus to Domestic Cricket, while COVID-19 continues to impact the game.

The main objectives for this group are;

  • To develop a single set of operating procedures that will incorporate cricket operations, venue operations and medical protocols
  • To provide a single delivery model that can be implemented across all 18 FCCs and regional women’s teams
  • To provide feedback and progress to the ECB Board and FCC Chairs

ECB Chief Executive Officer, Tom Harrison, said:

“It is a significant step for our game that we are able to approve the start of the men’s domestic season for 1 August and one which will be welcomed by everyone connected with County Cricket.

“It follows extensive consultation between the 18 First-Class Counties, the Professionals Cricketers’ Association and ECB and has only been achievable thanks to the significant hard work that continues to occur as we prepare for a domestic season unlike any the game has faced before.

“It must be stressed that the safety of our players, staff and officials has been the first priority through all discussions and Government guidance will continue to shape our planning and preparation.

“Planning for the return of the women’s domestic game remains ongoing, but our commitment to women’s domestic cricket is unwavering and we look forward to sharing further news shortly.

“Our strong preference is that the women’s new elite domestic structure starts this summer and we will work hard to ensure that happens. For this to be achieved, brand new infrastructure still needs to be rolled-out, alongside imperatives we need in place when playing competitive cricket during a pandemic.

“Our first choice remains to do everything we can to start this year and build on the fantastic momentum in the women’s game. In the event that proves impossible, we will explore other options for play to enable our women’s players to enjoy competitive domestic cricket in 2020.

“We will continue to work closely with both the men’s and women’s domestic game to ensure necessary safety measures are in place to protect the wellbeing of everyone involved.”

PCA Chairman, Daryl Mitchell, said:

“County cricket returning from 1 August is hugely positive for our membership. It has been an incredibly uncertain time for players who have waited patiently for some encouraging news.

“Some county players have already started to return to training and now we have an official date to restart I am confident all counties will have their players back to prepare for the return of competitive cricket in just over four weeks.

“The health of our membership remains our number one priority and no player should be required to return to work if they do not feel comfortable due to any underlying health issues or other factors such as living with vulnerable people. We have pushed for an ‘opt in’ process with ECB and the counties so players can totally understand the protocols in place to mitigate risks and those who are not yet able to return feel comfortable in not opting in.

“I commend the expertise and effort that has been shown by the ECB and the first-class counties to get to this stage. The planning and safety procedures that are being put in place will make the return to professional cricket as safe as it possibly can.

“We look forward to seeing a schedule as soon as possible so we can all understand what will be required from players from the start of August.

“The commitment to play women’s domestic cricket this summer is also very positive. We need to continue the momentum of the women’s game so to have an assurance this summer will not be completely lost to domestic players is another step in the right direction.

“The game is still facing arguably it’s biggest ever crisis at all levels, however, through a collaborative approach gradual steps are being taken to restore cricket and the confirmation of county cricket returning is vital in returning to some kind of normality.”