Steve Elworthy, Director of Events at the ECB has shared his experience of behind closed doors cricket at Emirates Old Trafford. Read the full story below.
Can you tell us how the concept of behind closed doors cricket was born?
We thought we had a full domestic and international summer to potentially no cricket at all, so it’s really considering how we could put something on. We came to the decision that what we needed to do was put some cricket on to get it broadcast and we’d do that without an audience.
It had been done before but without the Covid-19 lens on top of it, so this was the first international match that had been staged in a bio-secure environment, to protect the broadcast revenue of the ECB.
What were the next steps when Emirates Old Trafford was selected as a venue?
Well, it was a bit of a learning curve for both of us, as none of us had ever done this before. You have to interpret medical guidelines and incorporate this into an operational plan, so essentially you have to start planning from scratch.
I think what we started learning very quickly was how a venue needed to be set up – e.g. one way systems, social distancing dining places, analysis of ventilation – was it air that had been recycled from other parts of the venue, was it fresh air, how much fresh air was coming in out of each other the rooms – the level of detail we had to consider and implement made it quite a challenging experience.
How has behind closed doors cricket compared operationally to a usual Test match?
It’s gone above and beyond what any of us expected it to be. We have to take the whole Test match apart, every element of it, then put it back together with a Covid-19 lens on top of it. We all thought that behind closed doors cricket was a fairly simple process, as you don’t have to worry about food stalls, concessions, stewarding, queuing etc.
I think when you realise what you have to do to deliver an environment which is socially distanced, there’s so much more space required for it to happen and the signage and room set up is a different mindset.
What would you say your experience has been like with working with the team?
Everything has been taken into consideration, from the food service, social distancing, flexible spaces, venue access, the hygiene factors with the red dot system to indicate high touchpoints. The level of detail that the team have put in is phenomenal. It will give people confidence that they can step into a venue where there has been every safety precaution taken to keep them safe and secure.
The West Indies team absolutely loved it. The number of messages that we have received about the quality of food and service they have received is just incredible. The team have done an incredible job.