LOCAL cricket was dealt a hammer blow when the Northern Ireland Executive ruled that no spectators will be allowed when the season gets under way next Friday night.

In a blanket ban on all outdoor competitive games and sporting events, covering both grass roots and professional games, the stark statement from the Executive stated that “no spectators will be allowed”.

The Northern Cricket Union have incorporated the new ruling into the Return to Play Protocols which they issued to clubs last night but made no formal comment. A source, however, insisted it would be up to the PSNI to police it, the NCU would not be enforcing it.

The protocol states: “All clubs will be required to ensure they comply with the maximum numbers allowed to gather for outdoor events/activities, which is currently 30 (11 players, two umpires and two scorers account for 26 of those). If there is the an easing of restricting relating to this number we will update clubs accordingly.”

The North West have been more proactive instantly requested clarification from both the Department of Communities and Sport NI, highlighting what appears to be the farcical situation where people can use the clubhouse but spectators are not allowed.

They want to know if this will be revisited and have asked for a possible date when spectators may be allowed, because there are already indications that some clubs will not continue with the season if the ban lasts for the next two months.

The situation is highlighted by Donemana, where not only is there a clubhouse inside the ground but you can watch the match from the road which overlooks the ground so would police be used to prevent spectators? The North West have demanded answers.

Their short statement last night said: “Today's news obviously requires the NI Return to Play protocols to be reviewed and we will be working on this with Cricket Ireland over the next few days to ensure the resumption of cricket in a way that supports clubs, players and spectators this summer.”

The NCU insist however that their season would begin, as scheduled on Saturday week, July 18, the night after Coleraine meet Ballyspallen in the first T20 Cup match in the North West.