The Hundred doesn't need to be shelved, says Tom Harrison

Women's CricZone Staff
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The Hundred doesn't need to be shelved, says Tom Harrison

The Hundred. © Getty Images

Tom Harrison, CEO of the England and Wales Cricket Board, quashed any rumours that The Hundred would be scrapped, insisting that the tournament was needed now more than ever to generate revenue, interest and excitement in these difficult times.

"The reason why the Hundred was put in place was as a way of growing the game in this country and COVID-19 simply exacerbates the requirement for us to grow the game in this country," Harrison told BBC on Friday (April 24). "We were in an incredibly strong position coming into 2020 post a wonderful year for the game in 2019 both domestically and internationally we had, moving into new relationships with the BBC and Sky, it felt a very strong position to begin an exciting new strategy inspiring generations.”

"None of that needs to be shelved because of COVID-19, it just needs to be re-calibrated in the light of what we know and we don't know everything yet, but it is certainly going to make us less able to invest in the areas of the game that we wanted to and there will be some difficult decisions around that, but the Hundred is going to generate revenue, interest and excitement and that is the kind of thing we need to continue to prioritise as we go through this enormous challenge, so I see the case for the Hundred being much greater than it was if that is indeed even in question."

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However, the truth of the matter is that the United Kingdom is one of the worst affected countries by the pandemic. With over 138,000 confirmed cases and over 18,000 deaths, it seems unlikely that even if cricket does resume soon, large crowds will be allowed to attend games. That will be one of the main challenges ECB has to deal with if they intend to prioritise The Hundred this season. One of the main questions they have to answer is whether cricket will continue in empty stadiums.

"If you talk about the measures the government has got in place through this lockdown and the subtle messaging that's coming out about the longevity of some of the measures, probably the last lever the government is likely to pull is the one around mass gatherings and that is obviously something for us that impacts the ability to put cricket fans into stadia, so much of our planning is now based on what behind closed doors cricket might look like, how we can maintain those principles of safety for players, broadcast staff, journalists, management staff, people working in the venues where we're considering this option,” Harrison said.

Clare Connor (L) and Tom Harrison. © Getty Images Clare Connor (L) and Tom Harrison. © Getty Images

"How we can keep them safe is obviously our number one priority and as I've said, right now these are just plans because we are working very closely with the government but it's not until government provide the green light that we are able to activate those plans and there will be lead times involved once that green light is given - if it is given, there's certainly no pressure coming from us right now to force the government to do anything other than look after the public safety."

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With several men's and women's series having been indefinitely postponed and others in doubt, whether The Hundred will take place later in the English season is another question. Harrison said that decision would be taken later this week.

"There are lots of conversations at lots of different levels there is an impact on everybody's schedule, we are also taking to the BCCI about the India women's tour of England. It's not just the situation in our country with Covid-19 and in the case of West Indies, that's eight different countries so it is a complex matrix of decision making.”

"The spirit cricket is adopting internationally to try and challenge it has been very, very positive and optimistic and always prioritising public safety first so we're talking about that, whether that's about chartering aircraft. A bio-secure environment doesn't just mean the grounds the players go to, it's about hotels they stay in, the transit vans, there's a huge added level of complexity.

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"With domestic cricket grounds, we're right at the start of understanding the implications on each ground. Clearly there are some decisions for us to make there is a cost implication as well and in a year where finances are a premium concern, coming up with a cost-effective and safe solution is going to be a priority for us. We're going through those conversations now, they're complex and difficult and changing all the time but we're working very closely with our chief medical officer and with government and with international boards and with our first-class counties to get the answers to those questions."

Earlier this week, the ECB announced a delay in the start of their season while also mentioning a possibility – if push comes to shove - of playing a part of the season in the United Arab Emirates.