Scottish cricket playing waiting game as Gus Mackay says health has to come first

Exciting year was expected for Scottish cricket scene

By Duncan Smith
Monday, 4th May 2020, 7:30 am
Scottish cricket is currently on hold.
Scottish cricket is currently on hold.

Cricket Scotland chief executive Gus Mackay is upset that what promised to be an exciting first full year in charge has been derailed by the coronavirus crisis – but accepts that a game pales into insignificance in the face of global health and economic emergency.

The on-the-up Scotland national side had a packed 2020 calendar with ICC World Cricket League 2 matches in the United States, home summer internationals at Twenty20 and One-Day International level against New Zealand and Australia in Edinburgh then culminating in the T20 World Cup in Australia in October.

The Covid-19 pandemic has put paid to that and Mackay has now been focusing on the plight of the many grass-roots clubs around the land.

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Crisis meetings

“It’s been hectic,” said the 52-year-old Zimbabwean, who replaced Malcolm Cannon last autumn. “I’d been out in South Africa for a golf charity even with the Lord’s Taverners [the UK’s leading youth cricket and disability sports charity], got back and then the scale of the situation was quickly emerging and I was straight into crisis meetings.”

Officially, Cricket Scotland said it will wait until May 7, when further UK Government advice on lockdown and possible exit strategy is expected, before making any firm decision on the future of the domestic cricket season in Scotland. A board meeting that took place on Tuesday, April 21, with all current activity is suspended until June 1, 2020, which was accepted is likely to be extended.

Next steps

Mackay said: “The board has decided to defer further guidance on cricket activity until early May when government is due to announce the next steps and possible relaxations on lockdown measures. These are unprecedented times and we have a responsibility to follow guidelines and policies set by governments.

“The health and wellbeing of our players, officials, clubs and others involved in our game are, of course, a priority. Cricket is a team sport and thus brings particular social distancing issues.”

A Cricket Scotland statement said: “In recent weeks, Cricket Scotland has engaged with clubs and leagues through a club survey to establish the financial impact of no cricket activity this season at recreational level.

“Ninety per cent of the 130 clubs responded, which has provided some useful data that has shown that clubs would lose overall in the region of £500,000 if no cricket was played. As a result of this, we are in discussion with the appropriate bodies to ask for assistance to aid our clubs through this difficult time.

“Last week a meeting was held with the representatives of all leagues from across Scotland who are prepared for a shorter league season and will adapt their fixtures accordingly in the time frame available should cricket activity commence later in the season. However, the main concerns were around providing a safe environment for players and officials when it is likely that social distancing measures are likely to remain in place for some time to help contain the virus.

“Concern was also raised around the preparation of cricket facilities that are maintained by local councils, who will have other priorities at this time.

“A more detailed statement appears on the special coronavirus web page on the Cricket Scotland website, which provides information and guidance to clubs and others on health and wellbeing, potential funding relief and support as well as other issues relating to the pandemic.”

Hardship fund?

The Scottish Rugby Union has set up a hardship fund plan for its clubs, but Mackay said: “We are not so blessed financially in this country as sports like football and rugby are. A rocky road lies ahead, but that is the same for most people and most businesses at this difficult time.

“Sport will play an important part come the time, however soon or far down the line that is, for us all to get back to a bit of normality. But right now, people’s health is the overriding priority.”