Australian cricket set to be able to welcome crowds

Crowds appear a certainty at Australian cricket grounds this summer and the case for the T20 World Cup has improved after the federal government’s announcement that some venues will be able to host up to 10,000 spectators for sporting events from July.

At the moment the move only applies to grounds with a capacity below 40,000 so excludes the five major Test venues – MCG, SCG, Adelaide Oval, Gabba and Perth Stadium – but would cover some of the smaller grounds used for cricket, including Hobart, the WACA and Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast, and is another positive step as sport continues its comeback in Australia. South Australia and Queensland state governments have also said they plan to reopen their borders in July as domestic travel restrictions are eased.

The move to allow spectators back in reasonably significant numbers raises the likelihood that crowds may be able to attend international cricket and the Big Bash during the summer. It could also boost the chances of the T20 World Cup still taking place in October and November, although Prime Minister Scott Morrison said decisions over the larger grounds would take more time and for the World Cup there remains the logistical challenge of having 15 visiting teams in the country.

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“This is going to be looked at over the next few weeks. For the larger ones [venues] I would venture that it would be the subject of a discrete approval for each venue that would be worked out with the Chief Health Officer in each state or territory,” Morrison said.

“So by the time you get into July there may be that type of opportunity for the rules that apply to those under 40,000 carry over to those above 40,000. These will be practical, commonsense issues, work through by the medical expert panel over the next few weeks and I think they will give a great instruction.”

The chance of crowds for big-ticket events during the season, especially the India series, would add another element to Cricket Australia’s financial planning which has seen them model for up to a 25-30% reduction in revenue if games were played behind closed doors. It could also increase the challenge for them in getting their budget plans approved by the Australian Cricketers’ Association who have already cast doubt on the bleak picture painted by the board.

Cricket Australia recently announced a full fixture list for the 2020-21 season although with the caveats that much could change. As it stands Australia are scheduled to resume with a one-day series against Zimbabwe in August but that remains in significant doubt with the more likely resumption of international cricket being the women’s series against New Zealand in late September.

Cricket Australia’s decision makers were encouraged by the announcement over crowds, albeit as the start of a long process towards working up plans for bigger venues set to host international and BBL cricket.

Across the Tasman in New Zealand there are even fewer restrictions with full crowds able to attend this weekend’s rugby matches.

With inputs from Dan Brettig

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