With a curfew still in place, more than 4000 new COVID-19 cases per day and hundreds still in intensive care, the Netherlands, like much of the rest of Europe, continues to suffer from the effects of the global pandemic.
Nevertheless, government regulations recognise the importance of sport, and after consultation with the clubs the KNCB has been able to develop plans for ‘top’ Dutch domestic cricket competitions for both men and women, scheduled to start on 1 May.
While the rest of Dutch cricket will need to wait until the tight government restrictions are eased, cricket is one of 16 sports permitted by the Dutch Olympic Committee, NOC*NSF, to organise competitions at the highest domestic level, and the KNCB intends to take full advantage of this arrangement.
The conditions for such competitions are laid down in a ‘protocol’ issued by NOC*NSF on 19 February, and include a division of sports grounds into four zones, with testing on match days required for everyone with access to the actual field of play (Zone 1).
Participants will first need to confirm that neither they nor anyone in their household is showing ‘flu-like symptoms or has tested positive on a COVID-19 test.
The KNCB has informed the clubs that it will provide the material and cover the costs for the necessary match-day tests, up to a limit of 14 persons per game per club – players, scorer and essential staff. It is understood that the tests will also include three umpires per match.
The home club for each match will be required under the protocol to appoint a Hygiene Coordinator, to ensure that the rules are fully enforced before, during and after the game. Training for these key officials will be provided by the KNCB.
Unlike last season, when only a half-competition was possible and no titles and no relegation or promotion were at stake, the intention is that this year the men’s Topklasse and women’s Hoofdklasse will be played for the national championships, and that in principle there will also be the chance of promotion and relegation.
How this operates will depend on when the remaining divisions are able to get under way, but if it is possible to run at least a half-competition – that is, home or away rather than home-and-away, with a start by early July – then the proposal is that promotion and relegation would operate as normal.
‘We have thought about this very carefully,’ KNCB competitions manager Bart Kroesen said on Saturday, ‘and we believe that it is essential that the competitions are played for meaningful objectives. A thorough process was followed to come to that decision which included the clubs, NOC*NSF, office management and KNCB Board.’
Clubs have been asked to confirm whether they wish to take advantage of this opportunity for their leading players to take the field as early as 1 May.The decision to push ahead with the top flight of men’s and women’s competitions from the normal start of the season, rather than waiting until the lifting of national restrictions at some uncertain point in the future, will no doubt be welcomed by national coaches Ryan Campbell and Shane Deitz, who have the task of preparing their leading players for demanding international commitments in the course of the summer.
One area covered by the NOC*NSF regulations is the inclusion of overseas players, obviously a difficult issue with air travel currently disrupted and strict quarantine regimes in place for most international travellers.
In Dutch cricket the leading men’s teams have traditionally included one or more overseas players, and the same has to a lesser degree been true of the top women’s sides. There is limited scope under the protocol for sportsmen and -women from outside the European Union to take part in the permitted top competitions, subject to a somewhat relaxed version of the Dutch government’s 10-day quarantine rules.
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