Cricket-ECB says player welfare 'main priority' in Ashes tour plans


(Reuters) - The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will make player and staff welfare the main priority as it discusses provisional plans to visit Australia for the upcoming Ashes series, the board said on Friday.

Debate over whether the series should go ahead or be postponed by a year has started to grow due to restrictions put in place by Australian authorities prohibiting all but a small number of arrivals into the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leading English cricketers, including Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, face the prospect of being apart from their families for four months, including over Christmas and New Year, due to their commitments at the Twenty20 World Cup prior to the Ashes.

The ECB, in a joint statement with the Professional Cricketers’ Association, said it had held meetings with the England team and the Team England Player Partnership to discuss provisional plans for the five-test series, which is scheduled to begin on Dec. 8 in Brisbane.

"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," the statement said.

"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."

Former Australia captain Greg Chappell has called on England's cricketers to put aside concerns over quarantine restrictions and commit to travelling to Australia for the series.

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)

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