NCU looks at contingency options as coronavirus threatens cricket season

The Northern Cricket Union says it is exploring contingency options that would involve starting the club season late because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The NCU issued a short statement on Monday, admitting that “several potential start dates” could be considered if the campaign is delayed.

In addition the employment of South African professionals by local clubs this summer has been thrown into doubt.

The South African President Cyril Ramaphosa introduced an indefinite flight ban in and out of South Africa from “high risk” coronavirus countries including the United Kingdom.

A number of NCU Premier League clubs have signed South African professionals for the coming season.

Andre Malan is due to join Waringstown, champions CIYMS have recruited Migael Pretorius, Jacques Snyman is meant to be back for a second season with Carrickfergus, while newly-promoted Woodvale have Pat Botha in their ranks.

It is unlikely that visas would be issued to South Africans to work to the UK given the current situation.

Clubs may also be reluctant to continue with the process of bringing overseas players to Northern Ireland, given the growing uncertainty over the season.

With many sporting events in April and May already having been postponed, a delay to the club cricket season is likely, even if the matches hardly meet the criteria of “mass gatherings”.

The NCU statement said: “The NCU is beginning to look at contingencies should there be a later start to the season. This will involve creating a number of options using several potential start dates but clearly it is too early for anyone to begin to understand when this might be.”