Former England assistant coach Paul Farbrace says everyone associated with the game is in “firing line” and the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic will affect all the county clubs. The coronavirus outbreak has forced England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to suspend all cricket activities until July 1. The world governing body is mulling conducting internationals events behind closed doors and the prospects of counties playing in front of fans this summer also look grim.
“Every single one of us is in the firing line – it doesn’t matter what position you’re in, every single club will look at its financial situation and work out what the best thing is to do,” Farbrace, who is currently working as a sport director with Warwickshire, told ESPNcricinfo. “The game is really in a tough place. The ECB have been fantastic, very consistent in their communication to clubs, and the support they’ve given financially across the board has been excellent.
“But we all know that the ECB doesn’t have endless pots of money, and we all know that the game is taking a massive hit. All the time England aren’t playing, and Sky aren’t getting what they want, which is live cricket to show, there is going to be a knock-on effect across the board.” Several cricketers have lost their contracts with the various counties with nine rounds of Championship fixtures already lost. According to estimates, counties will lose 85 million pounds if the entire season is scrapped.
ECB has also pushed the inaugural edition of its flagship 100-ball tournament ‘The Hundred’ to next year, terminating the contracts of the players. “With every passing week, and every pound that’s being lost from the game because of no cricket (being played), everybody knows more clearly that there are going to be some tough decisions to make,” Farbrace said. “Ultimately, what we want is to come out of it with 18 first-class counties, and as many people as possible to still be in their jobs.”
England had a watershed season last year, featuring a World Cup win and a dramatic Ashes series victory and Farbrace said it is important to cash in on that moment and resume sport even if it means without fans.
“I genuinely worry about the state of the game, and whether we can build on what was a fantastic year for English cricket. There had never been a better time to cash in and keep interest in the game going on the back of last summer. Even if England have to play behind closed doors, I don’t really mind,” he said.
“But we have to be sensible, and we’re not going to do anything that will put people in jeopardy: if we can see that it’s safe, then we obviously want to see sport played again.”