ECB says 'player and staff welfare the priority' as it seeks Ashes talks with Cricket Australia
ECB issues joint statement with PCA ahead of further Ashes discussions
The ECB has issued a joint statement with the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) saying it is committed to "putting player and staff welfare as the main priority" in the planning process for this winter's Ashes tour of Australia.
Concerns have been raised about the nature of the touring party England will send, amid suggestions that families may be prevented from joining the group at any stage. With the Ashes set to follow on from a T20 World Cup in the UAE, some of England's senior, multi-format players with young children, such as Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, could face months of separation from their loved ones.
The ECB held talks this week with the England players and representatives of the Team England Player Partnership. Further discussions are planned with Cricket Australia before tour arrangements are finalised, with the ECB stressing the importance of sending a team "to compete with the best players and at highest possible standard" as England's men attempt to regain the Ashes.
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"This week, several meetings have been held between the England men's players, ECB and Team England Player Partnership to discuss provisional plans for the tour of Australia later in the year," the statement said.
"All parties are collaborating and will continue to work together to understand protocols around bubble environments, family provision and quarantine rules that will be in place for the tour during the current Covid-19 pandemic.
"With player and management's welfare paramount, the ECB will discuss planning and operational requirements with Cricket Australia in the coming weeks and how they seek to implement their policies in partnership with state and federal governments.
"All stakeholders are committed to putting player and staff welfare as the main priority and finding the right solutions that enables the England team to compete with the best players and at the highest possible standard that the Ashes series deserves."
Earlier in the week, after former England captain Michael Vaughan used his column in the Daily Telegraph to suggest Cricket Australia should consider delaying the Ashes rather than host a weakened touring team, Dom Bess became one of the first England players to speak on the subject, saying he would "never, ever turn down" an Ashes touring spot.
Australia's Covid-19 entry and quarantine rules are among the strictest in the world, with a number of English players pulling out of last year's Big Bash over concerns around bubble fatigue.
Kevin Pietersen, the former England batter, last month described the idea of a four-month trip to Australia without access to families as "utter madness, suggesting that players who withdrew would have his support.