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Decision took us by surprise but we're excited to welcome back fans, says Waite

 

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Spectators can return to matches from today after the Northern Ireland Executive ruling - which took NCU officials by surprise.

The latest easing of restrictions last night said that spectators can attend outdoor sporting venues "where the operator can control access and ensure attendance to social distancing". In the wide open spaces of a cricket ground, that was all local clubs wanted to hear.

Alan Waite, chairman of the NCU's Domestic Directorate, said: "Normally we would get a bit of a heads-up but this time there was no inkling.

"We are still awaiting to see the exact details but our belief is that as long as we have our contact tracing in place and we can socially distance adequately within the ground, spectators are allowed.

"Here at Waringstown, we are at home on Saturday and Sunday and we can follow the same process as last week, signing everyone in through the gate and then, rather than have everyone cramped into a 30-yard hospitality area, everyone will be free to move around the ground.

"We suspect there is still no relaxation around dressing rooms so we believe we will still need two designated areas for players."

But Waite stressed the danger of Covid-19 is nowhere near over.

"You saw last night the story out of Cork County, it is still fairly fragile. So let's continue to proceed cautiously," he said.

All eight Premiership clubs play back-to-back games this weekend in two different competitions.

Tomorrow, the Robinson Services League Cup continues with all four of last Saturday's opening-day winners - CIYMS, Woodvale, North Down and Instonians - facing the four teams who lost, while on Sunday it's the quarter-finals of the Lagan Valley Steels T20 with CIYMS starting their defence at newly-promoted Woodvale.

Tomorrow's fixtures (2pm): Robinson Services League Cup: CIYMS v Lisburn (12pm), Civil Service North v Instonians (11am), Waringstown v North Down, Woodvale v Carrickfergus.

RS Trophy: Ballymena v Cregagh, Cliftonville Academy v Muckamore, Derriaghy v Downpatrick, Saintfield v Armagh, Templepatrick v Donaghcloney Mill (12pm). Sunday: Cliftonville Academy v Saintfield, Cregagh v Templepatrick, Derriaghy v Ballymena, Downpatrick v Armagh.

RS Bowl: Lurgan v Cooke Collegians, Victoria v Laurelvale (1pm), Ards v Holywood, Bangor v Donaghadee (12pm), Dundrum v BISC, Dunmurry v Drumaness Superkings

Sunday: Lagan Valley Steels T20 Cup: Carrickfergus v Lisburn (12.30pm), North Down v Instonians, Waringstown v Civil Service North, Woodvale v CIYMS.

Belfast Telegraph