A spectator pilot programme at Edgbaston Stadium saw more than 800 members of Warwickshire and Worcestershire County Cricket Clubs gain access to watch a friendly fixture between the two teams.
Also in attendance were minister for sport, Nigel Huddleston, and shadow minister for sport Alison McGovern – alongside ECB chief executive Tom Harrison – who were there to monitor and observe the processes in place to allow fans to the stands.
The pilot is the second elite sporting event in the UK to accommodate spectators since the COVID-19 outbreak, with subsequent pilot events taking place at the World Snooker Championships at The Crucible in Sheffield and the Goodwood horse racing festival.
The test events are the first steps to allow fans back into the stands and are a welcome move for the sports sector, which has been hit badly by the lockdown.
“The team at Edgbaston have safely delivered one of UK sport’s first live events without compromising on giving members a great day of cricket,” said Stuart Cain, CEO at Warwickshire CCC.
“We’ve had to totally re-engineer the way we think about every aspect of staging sport, including player welfare, ticketing, access control, seating, concessions, toilets and parking.
“Everything has been re-thought with social distancing and safety in mind. It has been a challenging but rewarding exercise that helps the industry define how sport should operate, once the government is comfortable with the introduction of large-scale gatherings.
“The test event wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Birmingham City Council, local Councillors, the ECB, central government and a number of other stakeholders, including our ticketing partners Secutix and The Ticket Factory.”
Edgbaston will now play its part in the second stage of the pilot programme, by accommodating up to 2,500 spectators on Saturday 1 August and Sunday 2 August for Warwickshire’s opening Bob Willis Trophy match versus Northamptonshire.
“It may be the first step, but our conversations with the Minister for Sport, Shadow Minister for Sport and other stakeholders in attendance today were very productive,” Cain added.
“Our attention now turns to this weekend’s second phase in the pilot programme when it will accommodate around double the numbers of spectators.”
Editors Note: The second phase of the pilot did not take place due to the change in guidance issued.