Yorkshire CCC underline importance of late T20 Roses clash with Lancashire

Yorkshire have asked for their money-spinning T20 Roses home game to be played as late as possible to ensure maximum revenue and the presence of a crowd.

Thursday, 2nd April 2020, 9:22 am
Updated Thursday, 2nd April 2020, 9:24 am
SEASON DELAY: Yorkshire's Nicholas Pooran hits out against Lancashire last season. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com Copyright: SWpix.com (t/a Photography Hub Ltd)

The club is hoping to sell-out the fixture against Lancashire at Emerald Headingley for an eighth successive year and has sold around 70 per cent of tickets already for a match due to take place on June 4.

But with the season not scheduled to start until May 28 at the earliest because of the coronavirus crisis, and with the possibility that any cricket played thereafter might initially take place behind closed doors, if any cricket actually takes place at all, Yorkshire have acted to give themselves the best opportunity of welcoming the expected circa 18,000 capacity crowd.

They have asked the England and Wales Cricket Board to factor in the significance of the game to the club financially – believed to be worth over £200,000 in net ticket sales alone – in any rescheduled Blast tournament, considering the potential restriction on mass gatherings that could still be in place even if present lockdown regulations are relaxed by the government.

Mark Arthur, the Yorkshire chief executive, told The Yorkshire Post: “What we’ve said is that if there’s a period when we’re playing cricket behind closed doors then, please, from a Yorkshire perspective, the one game that we really wouldn’t want to play behind closed doors is Lancashire.

“The fact is that we derive significant income from ticket sales for that game and it’s already 70 per cent sold out at this stage.

“If there’s a T20 Blast programme that’s rescheduled, we would actually want that game to be scheduled for the back-end of the new-look tournament rather than at the front-end.

“That way, we would potentially be able to make the most of it and give people the best chance of attending the game.”

The ECB is currently drawing up a range of scheduling options based on whether the season can potentially start in June, July or August.

They have already announced a £61m bailout scheme to help professional and recreational cricket as the sport battles the impact of Covid-19.

The board has signed off the early release of three months (May to July) county partnership distributions to the first-class counties and county cricket boards, which means that Yorkshire are receiving one-quarter of their annual £3.5m in advance to help with cash flow.

But the question as to whether any cricket can be played this summer is as imponderable as the time honoured question regarding the length of a piece of string, with the behind-closed-doors option perhaps the only one way that it could get going.

“It’s certainly feasible that some county and international cricket could be played behind closed doors,” said Arthur.

“I’ve got nothing to do with whether it is at all, but it’s definitely a realistic option that will be explored.

“The ECB derive 90 per cent of their income through international cricket, broadcast and sponsorship, and with the Sky deal worth something like £200m a year, Sky are obviously desperate for content because they’re having to give people who subscribe to Sky Sports a holiday at the moment.

“So, if we do get the all-clear to play cricket behind closed doors, for example, it will be a priority to put on enough cricket to adhere to cricket’s contract with Sky.”

Yorkshire and their fellow counties would look to live stream games if spectators are prohibited from attending in person.

However, there are numerous issues surrounding even behind-closed-doors matches in terms of creating a safe environment.

“Anything not covered on television, then we would look to live stream it so that our members would get the opportunity to see some cricket,” added Arthur.

“Of course, it’s completely up in the air at present because no-one knows when the season is actually going to start.

“Various scenarios are currently being created by the ECB, and we’re not privy to that information at this moment in time.

“But, if we do get the all-clear, I think the season will start pretty quickly.”

Although it is hardly anyone’s chief concern at present, Yorkshire are – or at least had been –hopeful of a strong performance in this year’s T20 Blast.

Their record in the competition is one of the poorest of the 18 first-class counties.

They have just twice reached Finals Day, losing to Hampshire in the 2012 final in Cardiff and to Durham in the 2016 semi-final at Edgbaston.

But with quality signings such as England batsman Dawid Malan, along with that of West Indian batsman/wicketkeeper Nicholas Pooran, optimism has been high at Headingley that Yorkshire might finally crack the 20-over format.

They also have a new T20 captain in David Willey, the England all-rounder, who is relishing the challenge of attempting to transform the club’s white-ball fortunes.

Yorkshire are scheduled to start their T20 Blast campaign at home to Durham on May 29, the day after the earliest start-date for the season per se.

It is the first of 14 scheduled group fixtures, with the return T20 match against Lancashire at Old Trafford due to take place on July 10.

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