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Fans allowed to attend first-class cricket for first time since March as pilot scheme extended

Surrey, Warwickshire's Willis Trophy fixtures opened up to members

Fans will be permitted to attend first-class cricket for the first time since March this weekend, with the first two days of Surrey and Warwickshire's opening Bob Willis Trophy matches opened up to spectators.
The fixtures are both part of the second phase of UK government pilot events, and each ground will be allowed to host up to 2,500 fans following trials at pre-season matches. 1,000 fans were permitted at The Oval for Surrey's friendly against Middlesex on Sunday and Monday, with the same number allowed at Edgbaston for Warwickshire's match against Worcestershire on Tuesday.
For the time being, tickets will be limited to members, with both counties releasing further details on their websites for those keen to attend. Social-distancing measures will remain in place, but the move will continue to raise hopes that fans will be able to attend T20 Blast games when the competition starts on August 27. Surrey's opening match is also against Middlesex, while Warwickshire will host Northamptonshire.
Neil Snowball, the ECB's managing director of county cricket, said: "We're all excited about the start of the county cricket season, and of course we all miss not being able to go and watch as we normally would. These two pilots are an important step in testing the Government guidance and ensuring we can safely open our grounds again."
The government is officially aiming for fans to be able to return to stadiums from October 1, but Surrey's chief executive Richard Gould has suggested that date represents a target to be beaten.
Speaking on Sunday during the Oval trial match, Gould also warned that the current social-distancing requirements that limit clubs to 30% capacity within any given area of seating is not sustainable in the long term.
"We need to be back to normal next summer," Gould said. "If we're not back to normal next summer, the structure, not just of our sports but all sports will have to significantly change.
"If we don't get crowds back in at some stage then many more clubs will become part-time organisations and I just don't think we can afford that as a sport or as a country in terms of cultural output."