COVID-19 would leave cricket in crisis if 2021 is disrupted - ECB chairman

Ian Watmore says the financial burden on the ECB could get much more serious if the global pandemic continues to affect the game next year as well.

ECB chairman, Ian Watmore. - GETTY IMAGES

New ECB chairman Ian Watmore feels the COVID-19 pandemic would leave the board with “very severe cash constraints and a global game in crisis” if it continues to rage on and disrupts the next domestic season.

The coronavirus outbreak forced a cricket shutdown in March and Watmore said ECB has a guaranteed shortfall of 100m this year against a pre-COVID-19 income of around 475m anticipated for 2020. He said recovering from the losses of the 2020 season will require a mindset of “same ambition, just less money” but it could get much more serious if the global health crisis continues to affect the game next year as well.

‘Cash constraints’

“Provided we can get cricket back to somewhere near normality next season ... we have four years to recover one year’s losses, where each of those years has double the income of the recent past,” Watmore wrote in a blog post on the ECB’s website.

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“What is more concerning is the possibility that our next domestic season is severely disrupted by COVID, too - with more cricket cancelled, played behind closed doors, or with very limited crowds. At this point, we will have two years of losses to recover with only three years left of the current funding cycle, coupled with very severe cash constraints, and a global game in crisis.”

Watmore said ECB’s “ambition” would probably have to be reduced significantly.

‘Ephemeral’

“We must have a plan for this were it to occur, but the whole game and governments around the world must equally do everything we can to avoid this situation occurring.” According to Watmore, “An obsessive focus on cash and cashflow, combined with a sharp period of cost reduction and efficiencies across the whole game, starting with the ECB itself will be essential to reducing outgoings and buying time.”

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The resumption of international cricket amid the pandemic with series against West Indies, Pakistan and Australia helped England bridge the financial gaps but Watmore warned this is “ephemeral.”

“The game has also been brilliant in getting behind-closed-door men’s and women’s cricket going, internationally, at county/regional level and recreationally. While it appears as if the game has bridged the financial gaps, this is ephemeral and the financial day of reckoning is yet to come.”

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