Daniel Gidley, general manager of the Lancashire Cricket Club, has no doubts about the number of challenges they face. “People use the word unprecedented, but we are in really unexplored waters for sports clubs and cricket clubs in particular where you don’t have a season that starts as usual,” he said. declared.
County cricket must wait for the government to identify a clear path out of the lockdown before it can plan the start of its season.
The national and international calendar has been postponed until at least July 1 due to the coronavirus pandemic while the inaugural season of The Hundred has already been postponed until next year.
Gidney says safety must be guaranteed, first of all, before cricket can resume and behind closed doors at the start.
“Testing must be at the center of any strategy,” he told BBC Sport.
“The deaths are still high and it is difficult to resume the conversation about sport at a time when we still have no clear path out of the lock.
“We need to work very, very closely with the government medical team and develop a plan that can be very clearly and categorically safe for elite athletes, backstage staff and broadcasters. “
On Friday, medical representatives from cricket participated in the first multisport meeting with the Ministry of Culture, Media and Sports, during which protocols for the potential resumption of the sport were discussed.
But Gidney says there is still much more clarity and detail required and that a gradual return to action must be followed.
“One of the priorities must be the return of elite athletes to training,” he said.
“For this to happen, you will need social outreach coaching to be slightly relaxed. I think we have to be in the position of a country where everyone is tested and who needs to be tested.
“This will be the absolute focal point of the possibility of opening a sport behind closed doors, as soon as possible. “
From strength to weakness overnight
Despite the postponement of the season, the Emirates Old Trafford field in Lancashire is still scheduled to host a England T20 against Australia on July 5 and a test match against Pakistan in August.
But Manchester Originals’ potentially profitable matches for the new Hundred franchise have already disappeared from the fixture list.
Another concern during the ongoing foreclosure, in terms of the red rose county’s financial outlook, has been the loss of revenue from its various business activities such as hotels and underground conference facilities.
“Our greatest strength has been to reduce our dependence on governing body distributions and match day revenues to develop a hotel and conference event business which alone has reached £ 10 million business, “said Gidney.
“Our greatest strength became our greatest weakness overnight.
“The phones have literally stopped ringing. You still have all the costs, like payroll, but you have no income and you have to find a way to navigate. “
Lancashire expects to miss a £ 4m operating profit forecast for 2020 due to the continued suspension of field and off-field business.
Gidney said the amount “was wiped out before my own eyes in five days.”
But despite these short-term cash flow problems, he doesn’t think any of the 18 first-class counties will fold as a result.
An existing five-year broadcast agreement provides support and a cushion over certain other sports.
“This gives the ECB room to maneuver,” said Gidney.
“I don’t think anyone is in danger of going out of business, but there will be significant short-term cash flow problems likely to be dealt with until the end of the (fiscal) year.
“This is the challenge we have to face. “
Is cricket in a better position to get back into action before other sports?
Although Lancashire has not made the decision to put its players on leave, a large portion of the non-player staff has been placed in the government’s job retention program.
But the county has ruled out making permanent layoffs during the foreclosure to ensure it would be “able to mobilize again” if cricket got the green light to start later this summer.
Emirates Old Trafford could be chosen as a key location with its potential to act as a “biosecurity” environment with the hotel excavated.
But Gidney insists that the guidelines for mass gatherings be relaxed before he can set a date for cricket even behind closed doors.
“You will need, I believe, at least 300 people to organize a match and for that to happen, that is a fairly significant change from our current situation,” he said.
“Cricket has been pretty stoic about it,” he said. “These are not really commercial or domestic advantages, but” how can we find a global way that can support the pursuit of broadcast revenues? They are the foundation of all governing bodies.
“Playing cricket behind closed doors protects that income.
“As long as we can get an environment that is medically and clinically safe, then there are jobs at stake here that broadcast revenues can continue to maintain and support.” “
Keeping the “Lancashire family” together in lockdown
The coronavirus pandemic has had a profound effect on Lancashire players and staff.
In March, President David Hodgkiss died after contracting the virus, a loss that Gidney says has been felt throughout the club, particularly with regard to the mental health of his colleagues.
“David was so loved by so many people,” he said. “He was a great character and a great businessman.
“I miss his keen sense, his calm and his positivity in difficult situations. He always said that we would find a way.
“He gave that confidence to other people and we were all very badly affected by it. “
“It is very difficult in a normal business environment to face financial problems, but then you have the emotional side of losing a close friend and a colleague who was part of the Lancashire family.
“When it comes to staff morale, mental health is often underreported, but it’s really important. We have been very active with staff from social media groups and have kept them engaged.
“Our decision not to put players on leave has allowed them not only to continue their training program, but also to participate in various community events and awareness programs and to keep our supporters involved.
“For players and non-players, we try to do as much as possible to keep them positive. “
Gidney says that when cricket is able to come back, it can play an important role in building morale and public confidence in the long run.
“If we can get T20 Blast cricket at the end of the season, it will really help us not only us – our players, our staff and our members – but also the public at large in terms of the sport helping to recover the country. .
“But only when it is certain. “