Northants plan T20 Blast cricket in front of reduced crowds of 1,500

Northants Steelbacks
Northants Steelbacks won the T20 Blast in 2013 and 2016

Northants are looking to host T20 Blast matches in front of reduced crowds of around 1,500 fans this summer.

The coronavirus outbreak has left domestic cricket in a state of flux, with the inaugural season of The Hundred already postponed.

But the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) wants to hold first-class and limited-overs competitions this summer.

Northants chairman Gavin Warren told BBC Radio Northampton the plans had been "driven by the science".

He said: "We are working on plans for maybe getting a crowd, subject to the social distancing plans the government's put in,

"If the experts say it's safe to play behind closed doors and also say it's actually feasible if you do this arrangement within your ground - I think you can get 1,500 people in."

Northants' Wantage Road ground holds a maximum of 6,500.

The ECB is in talks with the 18 first-class counties about how they can return to training, but any domestic cricket will only take place if it is safe and financially viable.

This season's T20 Blast was due to start next week, but no cricket will be played in England until at least 1 July.

"We want to give our fans the opportunity to come and watch some live sport because everyone is missing it," Warren added.

"If we can go that one step further and adhere to public safety I think it would be good and I'd be quite excited by it. We have to look at what the bio-secure environment looks like, then we can look at a seating plan.

"You'd hope common sense prevailed. We think we can do toilets and catering on a one-way system. It's very, very early days. It might come to nothing but why not try to aspire to do something?"

Warren said the chances of playing in front of supporters was "50/50" and it would have financial implications, but they are still keen to make it happen.

Taking a financial hit for the fans

"There's a paper that's been produced by the Miami Dolphins [American Football team] about how they are planning to set up their stadium - that's been interesting and it looks pretty sensible," Warren said.

"Frankly, it is a hassle but I think we are duty bound to our best for our season ticket holders, and people who have bought tickets and so we want to our utmost to get them in the ground.

"We are not going to make any money, it's going to cost us money. We want to do this for the fans really. I've been talking to our board about how it may work but it's very very early days. We want to aspire to do all we can.

"Our chief medical officer Bill Ribbans will tell me whether its safe or not. We'll know a lot more soon because it looks like the T20 Blast will happen in August so we have two months to prepare. But if there's a second wave [of coronavirus spreading], all bets are off, it won't happen."

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