Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 1 November 2020

IPL

IPL 2020: Emirates Cricket Board hopeful fans will be allowed into grounds to watch the action

Tournament will start behind closed doors, but plans in place to admit spectators later in event

The Emirates Cricket Board remain hopeful fans will be able to attend IPL matches at some point during the 2020 season.

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

Matches at the start of the tournament are almost certain to be played behind closed doors.

But Mubashshir Usmani, the general secretary of the 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,” Usmani said.

“This includes fan attendance. We will then discuss with the 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.”

Matches 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 final decision is likely to be led by Restrata, a British technology company that has been engaged by the tournament organisers to oversee the bio-security operation.

The company are based in the UK, but have an office in Al Thuraya Tower – where the ICC was temporarily housed before it moved to its current home in Dubai Sports City - in Media City.

It has 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.

Most pertinently, Restrata has been in charge 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 without fans in attendance, 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.

Mumbai Indians players celebrate their victory over the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League final last year. The two meets will renew their rivalry in a more low-key setting in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. AFP         
Mumbai Indians celebrate their victory against Chennai Super Kings in the 2019 Indian Premier League final in Hyderabad. AFP

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 have to quarantine in their hotel rooms for seven days, during which time they will 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 fans, 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 has uses 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 permit the return of supporters at sports venues, to an amount of up to 30 per cent of the usual capacity, whether the UAE will do the same remains unclear.

The amount of Covid cases has increased for three consecutive days, up to Wednesday.

It is still unsure 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 fit 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 said.

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

Updated: September 8, 2020 02:32 PM

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