June 27, 2001

No new legislation envisaged as ECB meet with Government

CricInfo

Officials from the ECB are to meet with members of the UK Government today to discuss means of avoiding the crowd trouble that marred the recent NatWest Series.

Speaking in the House of Lords Lord Bassam, who has formerly chaired a working group on football disorder and is a government whip, revealed that ministers "with responsibility in this area" would meet with ECB officials in order to discuss "a range of crowd management issues at cricket matches."

But he expressed doubt at the need for new legislation to deal with the problem.

"I think the important thing for the authorities, particularly the cricket authorities working with Government, is to consider what other measures of crowd management can be undertaken without the necessary recourse to legislation," he continued.

"Clearly other issues, such as ticketing, safety policy, the rehearsing of contingency plans, improved training of stewards, looking at entry controls, post-match celebration arrangement controls and so on, are issues and matters which need to be dealt with.

"The Government will assist the cricketing authorities in identifying what needs to be done to minimise the potential for further crowd problems," he continued, but warned that a change in the law was unlikely.

"Whether legislation would be helpful in that regard, I very much doubt," he said.

However, he did greet the suggestion by Conservative Lord Cope of Berkeley that fixed-penalty fines for throwing missiles on a highway could be extended to include other public places as "eminently sensible."

Lord Faulkner of Worcester suggested that the Football Offences Act 1991 could be extended to encompass cricket, revealing that: "there is now considerable support for the extension of that legislation to cricket."

But Lord Bassam replied: "I think the important thing for the authorities, particularly the cricket authorities working with Government, is to consider what other measures of crowd management can be undertaken without the necessary recourse to legislation.

"We take the recent disturbances at our international cricket grounds very seriously indeed," Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth, the chairman of the ECB said. "We are responsible for the safety of our players, our umpires and indeed the spectators. We do have to bear in mind the traditions of people watching cricket in this country. It would be very sad indeed, wouldn't it, if we stopped people going onto the grounds at county matches, where ... mums and dads and fathers play with their children.

"But international cricket has just started a new dimension which is very sad. And I would ask the Government to work very closely with us in seeing what we are able to do to make sure the scenes we have seen over the last few weeks never happen again in cricket grounds in this country."

Lord Bassam agreed with these sentiments, but reiterated the view that much of the responsibility for avoiding a repetition of recent scenes must remain with the cricket authorities. "Clearly the priority must be for those who run and operate and control the grounds to work very closely with their own staff and with the police to ensure that these things do not happen in the future," he stated.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury advocated the greater use of existing laws, including the Justices of the Peace Act 1361, an appeal that earned sympathy from Lord Bassam.

"It does seem to me that the approach that we have adopted, relying on the existing range of criminal penalties, is the right one," Lord Bassam replied.

"No doubt our discussions with the cricket authorities will take a very careful course, looking at the powers that are there and how they can be best adapted to the current situation."