Rob Andrew: Sussex chief executive says counties looking at early July decision

A County Championship match at Hove
There has been no county cricket played in England since September last year

Sussex chief executive Rob Andrew hopes a decision will be taken in early July on whether a shortened county cricket season can start on 1 August.

No matches have been played this season because of coronavirus and Andrew warned that the 18 first-class counties remain reliant on government advice.

Test cricket is set to resume next month, but most county clubs still have their players on furlough.

"It's a challenge to decide what is doable," Andrew told BBC Sussex.

"A lot of it is still determined by government decisions.

"But, by the end of this month, we need to have a reasonable amount of certainty because, by definition, we will have to bring back furloughed players around then, for them to be ready to play by 1 August."

A planned meeting on 6 July seems a realistic target for a final decision as it will be two days after the government's planned next step in the 'road map' out of lockdown.

The counties have been holding weekly Thursday discussions, with some talking every day, and former England rugby union stand-off Andrew denied reports of fall-outs over the issue.

"There are differences of opinion of course," he said. "But the final desire has always been working towards a plan to get some cricket on.

"These are not disagreements, just discussions around the challenges of what is uncharted territory for all of us."

It was Andrew who warned in April that there might not be any county cricket at all this summer.

But he is now optimistic that, subject to government approval and the backing of the England & Wales Cricket Board and the Professional Cricketers' Association, they can push through a programme of red ball and T20 cricket.

It would involve the 18 counties being split into six logistically manageable regional groups.

Proposed August/September county split

  • South - Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, Essex, Sussex, Hampshire
  • North - Durham, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire
  • Midlands/West - Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire, Glamorgan, Somerset
Sussex chief executive Rob Andrew
Rob Andrew has been Sussex chief executive since November 2016

"We've been working closely with both the ECB and the PCA," said Andrew. "Nobody is quite sure what the final answer is but we have to have a plan and it has got to be flexible.

"Options being discussed around the three groups of six, ideally moving the Blast as late as possible into the season in September, each county playing each other twice home and away.

"We'd also like meaningful red-ball cricket, with showpiece finals for both."

But he added: "The decisions are out of our hands, as they have been for football and rugby and other sports. And, if is not possible, then a 50-over competition is another option. That forms the basis of our options and we're just seeing what's feasible.

"One thing cricket has been very good at throughout all this is sticking together and there are lots of discussions still to be had among the 18 counties to find the right solution.

"Everybody is feeling the pinch. And we're all trying to find that way forward, like football a month ago."

Meanwhile, Sussex have confirmed that they will not play at any of their out grounds if the 2020 season does get started.

They were due to play a County Championship game against Derbyshire at Arundel (28 June-1 July), plus One-Day Cup matches against Kent at Eastbourne (24 July) and Gloucestershire at Horsham (9 August).

All three clubs have been told that they will have a Sussex home fixture of some sort in 2021.

Rob Andrew was talking to BBC Sussex's Adrian Harms - listen to the full interview here.

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