ECB hopes fans can grace IPL fixtures



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IPL UAE update Aug 2020 Image: IPL

The Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) is keeping fingers crossed on fans gracing Indian Premier League (IPL) matches at some point during the 2020 season.

United Arab Emirates Cricket Board is the official governing body of the sport of cricket in United Arab Emirates (UAE). United Arab Emirates Cricket Board is UAE’s representative at the International Cricket Council (ICC) and is an Associate Member and has been a member of that body since 1990.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) is a professional Twenty20 cricket league in India contested during March or April and May of every year by eight teams representing eight different cities in India. The league was founded by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in 2008.

The teams have started descending in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, ahead of the competition starting on September 19th.

The tournament will start behind closed doors, but plans are in place to admit spectators later in the event.

It is stark sure that matches at the start of the tournament will be a closed-door affair.

However, Mubashshir Usmani, General Secretary of ECB, has reiterated it might be possible for fans to attend later in the event.

“As hosts, ECB will work closely with the authorities to seek approval on what protocols need to be followed. This includes fan attendance. We will then discuss with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to assess their spectator requirements. We want our Asian diaspora, as well as the other expat and Emirati sports-loving fans in the UAE to be able to watch the action from the stands,” Usmani added.

The IPL fixtures will be played in Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with the local sports councils suggesting they are ready to “open their gates to fans whenever the relevant authorities make a decision on the matter”.

The ball lies in the court of Restrata, a British technology company that has been engaged by the tournament organizers to oversee the bio-security operation.

The company is based in UK, but has an office in Al Thuraya Tower – where the International Cricket Council (ICC) was temporarily lodged before it moved to its current home in Dubai Sports City – in Media City.

Restrata boast experience of “implementing some of the world’s most intelligent, efficient and fully integrated resilience solutions, providing complex security and safety solutions,” including at the 2012 London Olympics.

Significantly, Restrata took over the mantle of overseeing the safe return of international cricket in the UK this summer.

England’s series against West Indies, Pakistan and Ireland have been played sans fans, with players and officials staying in hotels on site.

The company was given approximately the same amount of time – a little over one month – to plan for the opening game of the English summer, as they have for the IPL.

However, the IPL involves far more moving parts. Each of the eight franchises will be based at different hotels, with six plus the IPL officials based in Dubai and two in Abu Dhabi.

The players and staff will need to quarantine in their hotel rooms for seven days, during which time they will have to undergo three COVID tests.

There will be follow-up tests every five days, as well as when the sides move between cities for matches.

Despite the fact the series have been played without spectators, the matches in the UK have had around 450 people working at each venue, including players, support staff, stadium staff and media.

Restrata’s services include creating “COVID-safe modules”, and involve managing “capacity limits across facilities and specific zones”.

Their system employs Bluetooth technology to track and trace the movements of everyone on site.

Because of that, the England and Wales Cricket Board in-stadium security team were able monitor the capacity of all areas of the venues.

Although the UK is reportedly planning to allow the return of spectators at sports venues, to an amount of up to 30 percent of the usual capacity, whether the UAE will do the same still remains unclear.

Coronavirus cases have increased in UAE on the trot. The picture is still hazy as to what extent there will be the sort of casual involvement that is normal when staging major cricket matches.

For example, UAE-based players have been approached and asked about their availability to act as net bowlers for the teams. Although they have been asked to remain available to assist, it is unknown whether that would sit well with the safety guidelines.

“There are very strict protocols in place specific to player safety, which will be outlined in the final version of the BCCI’s [standard operating procedure],” Usmani maintained.

“However, if required, and if our players meet their safety protocols, we will certainly put forward players for BCCI consideration,” he stated.

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