Northern Premier Cricket League sends a warning as coronavirus crisis takes hold

Garstang CC and Longridge CC have to wait, potentially, as late as July before starting their 2020 seasons         Picture: Tim Gilbert/Preston Photographic Society
Garstang CC and Longridge CC have to wait, potentially, as late as July before starting their 2020 seasons Picture: Tim Gilbert/Preston Photographic Society

Garstang CC and Longridge CC face waiting until the end of May at the earliest to begin their 2020 Northern Premier League seasons.

As society grapples with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, clubs have cancelled practice and net sessions to try and prevent the spreading of the illness.

The season had been due to start next month but clubs also faced the prospect that overseas players would not be able to carry out their duties if the UK enters into a lockdown situation.

Northern League chairman David Hopkinson had warned last week that the whole season could well be lost.

He said: “At this time of year, clubs are normally stepping up their preparations with important work on the ground and the square.

“However, even in the midst of so much uncertainty, the one thing we do know is that this year is not ‘business as usual’.

“Faced with uncertainty we have to base our actions on the balance of probability.

“There is a very strong probability that the start of the league season will be deferred.

“There is a significant probability that the first half of the season may be lost.

“The Government strategy of ‘delay’ is to push back the peak of the crisis from late May/early June into July and August. If this strategy is successful, there exists a chance that our entire season could be lost.

“It is too early to speculate as to how strong that chance is but not too early to acknowledge that the chance exists.”

The England and Wales Cricket Board formally suspended cricket last Wednesday, March 18, after which there was a joint statement issued by the Northern League and Moore and Smalley Palace Shield.

It read: “Cricket is a game which necessitates a ball being passed from hand to hand. Inevitably everyone who handles the ball during the game will transfer something of themselves onto the ball.

“We know that hand transmission is a key factor in the spread of Covid-19. We would have to be certain that this risk factor is eliminated before we could sanction a return to recreational cricket.

“At this point in time, we offer the following guidance:

n There will be no senior league cricket in the NPCL-PS structure before the 31st May and it is unlikely that there will be any league cricket before 1st July.

n In the NPCL-PS structure, we will resume recreational cricket as and when it is deemed safe to do so. We will follow government and expert advice.

n As and when we do start our season, we will ensure that we are playing meaningful, competitive cricket. The form and nature of that competition will be decided on in due course through consultation with our clubs.

n There will be no junior league cricket before the 31st May and it is unlikely that there will be any junior league cricket before 1st July.

n Inter-league age group cricket may become possible in the second half of the season.

n Almost certainly, there will be no All Stars or Dynamos programmes running before the 1st July, 2020 (ECB advice to all clubs who have All Star and Dynamos sign-ups, is pending).”

Given the financial impact a lack of cricket will have on clubs, the Northern League Executive has established a support package for them.

To that end, the Executive will purchase the entire stock of cricket balls for the 2020 season.

Should cricket resume, clubs can request the necessary quantity of their original order and then only be invoiced for that part, meaning they pay for 2020’s order in instalments and won’t pay the full cost until next year.

In addition, the £100 fee for adverts in the league handbook has also been waived.

The annual subscription fee of £100 for 2020 will also be reduced in the same proportion to the amount of the season that is lost.

On behalf of clubs, the NPCL Executive is in talks with the Lancashire Cricket Foundation and the ECB as to what further financial assistance might be possible.