Seven days to determine fate of Cup Match
The fate of Cup Match 2021 should be known within the next seven days after St George’s Cricket Club revealed preliminary plans for a scaled-down event to their members on Wednesday night.
The Royal Gazette understands that a new-look Annual Classic on July 29 and 30 at Wellington Oval would be open to only 2,000 spectators per day, not including players, coaching staffs and members, and without swaths of the traditional scaffolding.
Cup Match in normal times can attract crowds of up to 7,000 daily, with Somerset claiming in 2018 that they had significantly more than that number on the second day as the cup-holders closed in on an historic innings victory.
David Burt, the Premier, has already indicated that Cup Match — if it happens — will be 50 per cent occupancy at best and a SafeKey event, meaning that anyone in attendance would have to be immunised or be able to show proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours of the date of entry, while physical distancing would have to be observed throughout in keeping with continuing public health regulations.
It is unclear if the SafeKey requirements would extend to the players and coaching staffs of both clubs — or even if it could impact squad selection on the grounds of noncompliance.
Calls last night to Neil Paynter, the St George’s president, went unanswered, but Vashun Blanchette, his Somerset counterpart, confirmed that his members voted in a simultaneous meeting on Wednesday to seek more clarity before committing to Cup Match this year.
“We just want to be in receipt of information so we can make an informed decision,” Blanchette said. “Foremost for us are the health and safety protocols for our players, coaching staff and officials, and the wider public.
“Also, it is June 10 and there has been no cricket; we were given June 19 as a proposed date to start, but there has been nothing official.”
The prospects of Cup Match being cancelled for the second time in its 119-year history grew greater at the moment a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic struck the island in March.
It meant that Return to Play guidelines, which were first announced by sports minister Ernest Peets in December 2020 and had already accounted for the premature end of the domestic football season, had to be walked back even further.