Warwickshire are confident of housing up to 8,000 fans at Twenty20 finals day this October and insist they will need less than a week’s notice to be ready.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to update a timescale for the return of spectator test events over the coming days, a fortnight after cancelling plans for two county cricket pilots plus limited attendance for Glorious Goodwood and the World Snooker Championship.
And Stuart Cain, Warwickshire’s new chief executive, says Edgbaston is well equipped to adapt to any directive on social distancing measures as one of the few venues that has welcomed a limited crowd since the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the sporting world in March.
At two-metre distance they could accommodate 5,000 people but at a reduced one to one-and-a-half metres it would increase to 8,000.
‘We’ve proved already that Edgbaston can host a test pilot, we had the sports minister (Nigel Huddleston) down and he was quite complimentary about what we had done,’ Cain said. ‘Obviously, you want longer but as long as we are given five to 10 days, we think we can do it.’
Warwickshire make seven-figure profits from hosting finals day annually and although that will be reduced to a minimal excess on their projections this year, it is the bigger picture rather than immediate financial returns that concerns them.
‘We won’t lose money on it, but the key thing is having a crowd – because T20 needs a crowd, doesn’t it? The crowd makes the game,’ Cain added. ‘It won’t be the biggest but it’s better to have some noise in the stadium, for the way it will look on television, and the way the players will respond.
‘I do worry that if people don’t watch live cricket at all, they will get out of the habit. If you don’t do something for a year, you will find something else to do to fill your time.’
With its four dressing rooms, and spacious surrounds, the ground is well equipped for accommodating multiple teams and supporters alike, although if they get the green light to play to an audience on October 3 – it is hoped the quarter-finals of the competition on October 1 will also see stands populated – Public Health England advice will determine whether the crowd will be a regional or national one and if postcode restrictions are applied to ticket purchases.
Meanwhile, the club remain hopeful that phase two of Edgbaston’s redevelopment – the construction of a plaza and residential apartments – remains on course for the 2022 Commonwealth Games despite hitting a delay of eight weeks.
Phase three, set to commence post-2023 Ashes, will see a hotel added to the Birmingham venue’s footprint.