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New Safety Guidance for the Wearing of Cricket Helmets by Young Players

by Frank Kemp (ECB)

The England and Wales Cricket Board has issued new safety guidance on the wearing of cricket helmets by young players.

In, recent years it has become more common for professional cricketers and those playing a high standard of recreational cricket to wear a helmet when batting, particularly against faster bowling. Helmets have become more widely available and are now covered by a British Standard.

Many of the cricketing bodies responsible for the cricket played by young players already either recommend or insist that helmets are worn. The ECB wishes to establish a consistent and safe approach in all junior cricket. This article addresses many of the issues involved.

 

New Guidance

It is recommended that a helmet is worn by young players (up to the age of 18) when batting and when standing up to the stumps when keeping wicket against a hard cricket ball in matches and in practice.

A young player should not be allowed to bat or to stand up to the stumps when keeping wicket without a helmet against a hard ball except with written parental consent. Coaches, teachers, managers and umpires should always ensure that a young player wears a helmet if this written parental consent has not been received.

Players should regard a helmet with a faceguard as a normal item of protective equipment when batting against a hard ball, together with pads, gloves and, for boys, an abdominal protector (box)

There is a British Standard (BS7928:1998) for cricket helmets and it is in the best interests of players to ensure that their helmet conforms to this standard.

 

Definition of a Young Player

In law a young person is deemed to become an adult at age 18. The law also imposes a duty of care on those responsible for minors (ie those under the age of 18). The ECB is recommending that this guidance is followed by all players up to the age of 18. It applies to young players in adult cricket as well as to all junior cricket played with a hard ball.

 

Implementation

The new guidance has been approved by the ECB Management Board and is applicable immediately. It is recognised, however, that many young players do not own a helmet and that clubs and schools may be unable to provide them immediately. The ECB is recommending that the new guidance is communicated to the parents or guardians of all young players through clubs and schools, and that parental consent is obtained before young players are allowed to bat or stand up to the stumps when keeping wicket against a hard ball without wearing a helmet. Clubs and Schools are also advised to seek parental consent to allow cricket to be played even if temporary supply shortages mean that insufficient helmets are available at the start of the 2000 season.

 

Parental Consent

The ECB has produced a standard 'Parental Consent' letter and Parental Consent Form that clubs and schools may wish to adopt. it is the club or school that is responsible for obtaining and recording the parental consent, not the umpires.

 

Relationship to Existing Guidelines

This new guidance specifies that a helmet with a faceguard should be regarded as a normal item of protective equipment which should be worn by batters and wicket keepers standing up to the stumps whenever a hard ball is being used.

 

Fielding Regulations

The ECB has also extended the existing regulations covering the minimum fielding distances for young players in all matches where a hard ball is used.

• No young player in the Under 15 age group or younger shall be allowed to field closer than 8 yards (7.3 metres) from the middle stump, except behind the wicket on the off side, until the batsman has played at the ball.

• For players in the Under 13 age group and below the distance is 11 yards (10 metres).

• These minimum distances apply even if the player is wearing a helmet.

• Should a young player in these age groups come within the restricted distance the umpire must stop the game immediately and instruct the fielder to move back.

• In addition any young player in the Under 16 to Under 18 age groups, who has not reached the age of 18, must wear a helmet and, for boys, an abdominal protector (box) when fielding within 6 yards (5.5 metres) of the bat, except behind the wicket on the off side. Players should wear appropriate protective equipment when- ever they are fielding in a position where they feel at risk.

These fielding regulations are applicable to all cricket in England and Wales. Age groups are based on the age of the player at midnight on 31st August in the year preceding the current season.

 

Responsibilities of Umpires

The umpires are responsible for administering the Laws of Cricket and the regulations of the particular competition in which they are standing. They should establish before the start of any match involving young players the policy that the club or school has adopted on the wearing of helmets and the age group of any young players taking part in the match. This will require a meeting with the teacher, manager, coach or, in adult cricket, the captain. If the policy of the club or school is that helmets must be worn the umpires should not allow play to proceed if the batsman is not wearing a helmet. If any young player intends to bat or to stand up to the stumps when keeping wicket without a helmet the umpires should ask for confirmation that parental consent has been obtained, and if it has not, the umpires should not allow the young player to bat or stand up to the stumps when keeping wicket without a helmet. The responsibility for obtaining and recording parental consent lies with the club or school and umpires should accept the word of the representative of the club or school.

In adult cricket, when the captain has indicated that there are young players taking part, the umpires should remind the captain that he or she is responsible for the safety of the young players throughout the match. if the policy of the club requires the young players to wear a helmet the umpires should insist that this happens. If the policy of the club does not require the young players to wear a helmet the umpires should seek confirmation from the captain that parental consent has been obtained and if it has not, the umpires should not allow the young player to bat or keep wicket without a helmet. The responsibility for obtaining and recording parental consent lies with the club and umpires should accept the word of the captain as the representative of the club.

Umpires should also ensure that young players do not infringe the fielding regulations for young players issued by the ECB.

Young players should ensure that they drink appropriate amounts of water to avoid any possible risks of dehydration during a match or practice session. Coaches, teachers, manages and umpires are encouraged to ensure that regular intervals for drinks are arranged, particularly in matches of more than 20 overs per innings.

 

Disputes

There may be situations, particularly during the coming season when the new guidance is first used in matches, where a captain, coach, manager or teacher intends to ignore the guidance. It is vital that the umpires meet with the responsible officials before the start of the match and ask for confirmation that any young player who will not be wearing a helmet to bat or to stand up to the stumps when keeping wicket has parental consent. If the umpires do not receive this confirmation they have two choices - refuse to umpire the match or state that the player(s) will not be allowed to bat or stand up to the stumps when keeping wicket. It is strongly recommended that the umpires make their position clear before play commences and stick to the course of action decided upon.

 

Conclusion

All umpires will appreciate that, in recent years, there have been significant changes in the law as it relates to the safety and protection of children, which in the context of the Children Act means young people under the age of 18. This Act imposes a duty of care on those taking responsibility for children, which within cricket means the coaches, team managers, teachers and umpires who are the essential lifeblood of junior cricket. It is important that we protect these volunteers as well as reducing the risks to the children that they take responsibility for. We believe that the new safety guidance will achieve these objectives and we very much hope that it will be supported and followed by all umpires.

More details on the implementation of this new safety guidance is being distributed to all cricketing bodies involved with young players and the ECB Cricket Department will be happy to answer questions on any aspect of the new guidance. Please call Frank Kemp on 0207432 1216, or write to the ECB at Lord's or e-mail frank.kernp@ecb.co.uk.