Learning by doing… a cricket match

I’ve never been able to appreciate cricket as much as I’d like (I do feel affinity with the writer who described it as “sunbathing with rules”) but I do like a good story about managing uncertainty.

This past weekend, 1,000 cricket fans watched a friendly match between Surrey and Middlesex. Not remarkable in ordinary times, but we are in a global pandemic, and a real sports event with an actual crowd is quite novel. But why do it? It wasn’t just for fun (in fact, it was a financial loss). It was to learn, with government officials present as part of that.

As I don’t run large sports events (or, to be honest, attend them) I found it hard to guess what one might learn from this, apart from whether Surrey or Middlesex was the better side on that particular day. But the Today programme interviewed Ken Scott, Head of the Inspectorate of the Sports Ground Safety Authority (start at 1:43:26), and he had a lot of answers. It was, he said,…

  • to check the preparedness of a venue—what were the consequences, in practice, of their policies and their plans?
  • What were the consequences of the ground’s design or reconfiguration?
  • To exercise the safety management capabilities of the venue.
  • To understand spectator co-operation—how well will they comply with the requirements put upon them? Where would they sit? How would they behave? How well would they avoid close-contact celebration?

There will be futher tests, too—one in snooker and one in horse racing. All this will inform the sports community at large, and no doubt some lessons will be carried over to other industries, too.

It’s all very well writing down plans, policies and ideas, but we can never be sure how they will work out in the real world unless we try them. Even if the future is uncertain, we can still prepare for it, and we can help a more positive future arrive sooner.

Photo by David Surtees