The Big Bash League has mismanaged COVID

Over the past few weeks, players in Big Bash League clubs have tested positive for COVID, which was not unexpected given the current increase in cases caused by the Omicron variant.

Many professional sports teams and leagues around the world have been successfully able to handle COVID and prevent outbreaks by implementing strict protocols. However, the Big Bash League’s handling of the virus has not been good, to say the least.

Prominent reporter Tom Morris broke the news a few hours before the Heat-Sixers game was to be played that the Sixers would play against the Scorchers that night instead due to positive incidents in the Heat camp. The Scorchers-Thunder game was also moved back to a later date to accommodate this schedule change.

Fans have known for some time that the Sixers-Scorchers would be a clash that would likely determine who sits at the top of the table. Many of them had the game enrolled as a must-watch and adhered to their schedule to watch the match on January 6th.

Announcing that the season’s probably biggest match to date should take place just hours before the match was a big inconvenience to them as they had to fight to change their plans at the last minute to watch the match. Many of them were unable to do so and as a result, the league lost a significant number of viewers to a marquee match.

In addition, the change in the tournament unfairly resulted in the Scorchers only having hours to prepare for their biggest game of the season to date, without their own fault. The Sixers had already prepared to play a game that day, so they had an advantage over the Scorchers.

The league similarly forced the Melbourne Stars to continue playing matches, although many of their players kept testing positive and insisted that the matches should continue. As a result, Stars had to put up with many players who had not played a game of Big Bash cricket before.

The aforementioned position taken by the BBL put the Melbourne side in a significant competitive disadvantage given that they were in a good position to qualify for the final before their outburst but have dropped to the penultimate on the rankings side.

The league responded to the Stars outburst by imposing masks and social distancing on all players sitting on the bench during Stars matches, but that measure was just not good enough. The stars outbreak has only continued to grow, and today their captain Glenn Maxwell has tested positive for the virus and is symptomatic.

Glenn Maxwell from Stars strikes during the Big Bash League

(Photo by Daniel Pockett – CA / Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Orders of masks and social distancing for players sitting on the bench during matches while allowing them to mingle with the public indoors make no sense. The Big Bash should take a page out of the NRL’s rulebook and at least mandate masks to all club staff while at public indoor venues, if they are at all serious about safety.

Even a mandate for indoor masking may not prevent further distortions of competition given the speed at which the virus is currently spreading.

The league should ideally ban players from interfering with the public and enforcing a strict bio-bubble for club staff and their families for the rest of the season if they are serious about player safety and want to minimize further disruption to competition.

I hope the rest of the competition runs smoothly, but given that the league has poorly managed COVID so far, there is no reason for me to believe that will happen.

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