County Championship ‘not classed as elite sport’
Fast bowler has to quarantine despite having arrived from “secure bubble”
Billy Stanlake, the Australia fast bowler, has been prevented from making his Derbyshire debut this week as the County Championship is not considered “elite sport”.
Stanlake arrived in England on Sunday and was hoping to play in the Championship match against Nottinghamshire starting on Thursday. But while that would have been fine if he had been hoping to play in the T20 Blast – or, indeed, the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy – which have government exemptions on the grounds of being deemed elite sport, the County Championship holds no such status. As a result, Stanlake is required to serve a period in quarantine.
“We originally thought he would be available for the Nottinghamshire game because he’s come from a secure bubble,” Dave Houghton, Derbyshire’s head of cricket, said. “However, first-class county cricket is not classed as elite sport.
“If he was playing Twenty20 tomorrow he would be eligible, but because it’s four-day cricket he has to quarantine for five days, which will go beyond the start of Thursday’s game. We’ll have him ready to play in the away game against Essex [starting on May 13].”
While such a situation may jar, there is some logic behind it. The concept of elite sport exemption was developed to enable relatively short-term sporting events – such as Champions League football matches or an international cricket tour – to take place without the need for quarantine protocols. For comparison, the Champions League has such an exemption but the Premier League does not.
As a consequence, all overseas players arriving to play County Championship cricket in recent times have been required to serve a quarantine period.
There may be eyebrows raised about the consistency of the criteria applied to deciding which events are “elite”, though. The Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, the domestic 50-over women’s competition, does hold such an exemption but starts in May and ends in September, albeit with no matches in July or August.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo