Featured News

Emirates Old Trafford CEO pushes for April test events as spectators return in England

Lancashire Cricket Club chief executive Daniel Gidney is expecting a roaring 20s for live events as sports, music and entertainment fans prepare to return to venues.

The chief at Emirates Old Trafford has been left full of enthusiasm following the UK Government’s announcement on Monday about the roadmap towards the end of lockdown, which will see fans return to venues in England in limited numbers in May and then the end of capacity and social distancing restrictions from June.

Emirates Old Trafford has already seen strong sales for summer events, having made 100 per cent of tickets available even before the roadmap announcement. Speaking on Tuesday, he said that only a limited number of tickets remain for September’s Test match between England and India.

“We can now go out and market, hell for leather,” Gidney said. “We want fans in for Lancashire games, England games and also Manchester Originals games in the new The Hundred competition.

“Some people are desperate to get out and watch cricket and experience live events. There is an estimated £250bn in household savings because people have not been able to do things. We need to offer them that chance to do the things they love.”

The roadmap has given people “certainty” and “confidence”, and Gidney is keen that his organisation and cricket more widely offer punters the same assurances. While many games will be staged without fans in April and then limited numbers between May and June, he has dismissed the idea of altering the season schedule so that more games take place after the scheduled dates for fans returning.

“People need to know what they are buying; we don’t want them worrying that dates will be changed,” he said.

“We have a role to play also in demonstrating that we have made our venues safe. While some people will just want to get back, others will perhaps rightly be a little nervous. We found the same thing when staff returned last year; we worked hard to get communication out there so that people knew in advance about the safety measures in place, one-way systems and testing.”

Gidney is part of a working group of senior county cricket executives that is liasing with the England Cricket Board (ECB) to lead the safe return of fans to sport. He said the group is determined to play a positive role in helping the authorities make data-driven decisions that ensure spectators can return safely and in big numbers.

He wants County Championship games at Emirates Old Trafford in April to act as pilot events, with these notoriously sparsely attended games “perfect” for conducting tests and bringing back fans in limited numbers.

“I was so enthused to hear the Government say that decisions will depend on data,” he added. “That gives us a chance to make our case. If they give us 10 technical reasons why we can’t do something we can go away and see if we can solve them. If it’s all just about feelings, then it can’t be answered.

“We want to play our part in getting that data that helps good decisions to be made. We will reach out in a positive manner, but we need to make our case effectively. In April, hundreds of people can congregate in TK Maxx or sit in a beer garden together while our venues will still be empty. We need to convince the authorities that people can come back and do so safely.”

Gidney backs the use of lateral flow testing as one way of ensuring safety and confidence at mass events, with these offering ease of use and huge volume at minimal costs. He said the use of these in nearby Liverpool last year had helped to bring down infection rates, and is keen to work with the health authorities there to see whether Emirates Old Trafford and its 17-acre facility could be effective as a test centre.

He also believes vaccine passports could be considered, even if the Government seems reluctant to adopt them.

“The travel industry is moving in this direction, so it may be that they are used even if it isn’t mandated from Government,” he said. “Saga holidays have said you can’t travel with them unless you prove you’ve had the vaccine, while our partner Emirates was one of the first to insist on a negative PCR test before take-off.

“Some businesses, such as nightclubs, may find it’s the way to make their venues safe and accelerate opening. It could even be that you have different rules in different areas at a venue, with perhaps some areas with full capacity because everyone there has a vaccine certificate or has been tested.”