Elite level international cricket is back and Emirates Old Trafford hosts England and the West Indies for two Test matches this month.
Steve Davies, Operations Director at Lancashire Cricket, explains how the venue has created a bio-secure environment for the fixtures and how the learnings will put it on the front foot once non-cricket events return.
As a cricket club providing for hundreds of thousands of fans each summer, and corporate events year round, COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on our short-term operations. So we are excited to welcome the return of international cricket, despite the obvious disappointment that no fans will be present.
When looking at the wider events industry, which is still searching for much needed clarity from the Government on when it can re-open, we realise how fortunate we are that cricket is one of the first major sports in the UK to resume elite level international competition and we are delighted that we can play our part in its return.
The process started several weeks ago, with plans put in place for the West Indies team to arrive well ahead of the matches starting on July 8. Emirates Old Trafford became the first venue in the UK to welcome overseas visitors when the 39-strong touring party touched-down on June 9.
This coronavirus has created a completely new set of challenges; we have reimagined every stage of a typical event hosting operation and added a bio-secure health filter safeguarding all visitors to our world-class facilities.
Emirates Old Trafford has a 150-room four-star Hilton Garden Inn hotel, over 700 car parking spaces and interconnecting bridges to all parts of the stadium in a single 17-acre setting. Being able to provide a safe environment, for both teams, was a crucial element in its selection to host the matches.
We have re-written our Risk Assessments and Standard Operating Procedures for all departments, including: rigorous deep cleaning measures; providing PPE for all players and staff on-site, social distancing measures in place adhering to Government guidelines and increased hand sanitisers at every touch point for all on-site.
The ECB undertook 702 COVID-19 tests between June 3 and June 23 with several stakeholder groups working at the Test Match venues including players, support staff, match officials, ECB, venue and hotel staff – all registering as negative. Weekly COVID-19 testing will continue during the Test Matches.
Both teams will remain on site at all times, staying at the Hilton Garden Inn, with players having passage straight onto the playing surface via the hotel’s interlinked passages. The Hilton CleanStay program, a hotel industry-defining cleaning standard, has been implemented and teams will have separate lifts, be housed on different floors and eat in separate dining areas.
Essential items such as hand sanitiser dispensers, social distancing measures – a minimum two metre rule is currently in effect at Emirates Old Trafford – and new signage indicating correct entry and exit points to maintain a one-way system, have all been installed and are supported by daily deep-cleaning procedures.
With the procedures that have been put in place, we are confident that Emirates Old Trafford will provide the bio-secure environment we’ve envisaged and enable cricket to return for a global TV audience and help reassure conference and event bookers looking to secure a venue with tried and trusted protocols. More widely, we hope the success of staging Test Cricket will provide confidence to the Government to green light the return of spectators and attendees to venues up and down the country, so the industry can get back on its feet sooner rather than later.
We are grateful that the ECB has recognised Emirates Old Trafford as a venue that can deliver such a unique event to industry-defining standards.
There is no doubt we will be ahead of the game when business resumes and we are finally able to welcome guests and visitors back to the venue and host conferences and events.