‘Fans hungry for taste of live action’
Such has been the success of the return of cricket, grounds have been forced to turn fans away from games, according to Lloyd Smith, President of the BCB.
Despite Cup Match and county matches being cancelled because of the Covid-19 crisis, the domestic season was granted permission to mark its return in the form of Twenty20 matches in the Premier Division and First Division under strict health guidelines.
Since then, fans have been out in force over the first two rounds of competition, desperate to get a taste of live sporting action on island once again as one of the maximum 250 spectators allowed within the four dedicated venues.
While a welcome boost to everyone connected to the sport have action back under way, the demand has been so great that some fans have been left disgruntled at being refused entry to grounds, a frustration that Smith wholeheartedly understands.
“Having cricket back is a massive plus not just for the board, clubs and players but for the community and society in general,” he said. “It has given people somewhere to get out to on the weekend and given them the feeling of some slight normality back.
“Cricket is our community's summer entertainment and something people always look forward to when summer comes around. In a weird way, one positive to come out of the pandemic is that people are coming out in large numbers to the games.
“Usually for league games we'd see 150 people maximum but these past two weeks we're having a hard time having to turn people away because we're sticking to our number of 250 and enforcing social distancing regulations.
“Fans have been arriving early and we've reached capacity by the first games which has been great, particularly for the First Division, but it's been difficult having to close the gates and stop further people from coming in to the grounds.
“Hopefully we can increase our numbers moving forward and allow more fans in but that is entirely up to the Government and what the recommend to us.
“With social distancing in place at the ground we are using we still have areas of the grounds that are not being used and we could easily accommodate more fans. If we could get another 100 people allowed and still be able to socially distance safely that would be fantastic.”
As well as hoping to see an increase of spectators for the remainder of this season, Smith is also hopeful that the same fans will continue to show their support into next season.
“My ultimate hope moving forward is that these fans continue to come out next season and enjoy cricket to help build the numbers back up to what they used to be like,” he added.
“I hope people continue to come out on a regular basis like this and support local cricket. Not just because there has been a pandemic and they want to get out of their homes now but also to moving into next season as well.
“We have seen some extremely competitive games and the players are enjoying having the crowds out. Twenty20 is perfect for the fans as well because it is quick, exciting and fans don't have to here all day.
“For years we haven't seen these types of gates being taken and so it's also a huge plus for the clubs who have been able to receive some money and help to cover expenses at what has been a difficult time for everyone.”
Having successfully overseen the safe return of cricket, Smith also believes it gives hope to other organisations to follow suit and bolster the island's sporting calender moving forward.
“Hopefully we have given other sports hopes of returning,” he said. “They can see what has been done with cricket.
“Such as football, hopefully it can be done with fans like we are seeing with cricket.
“It would have been awful not to have any cricket at all this season especially with the loss of Eastern Counties and particularly Cup Match.
“It has given the players, clubs and fans something to look forward to and given people hope of returning back to a little normality in their lives.”