By  James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporter

International cricket ground the Emirates Riverside, in Chester-le-Street, has been offered to key workers fighting Coronavirus.

The sports ground, which has hosted Ashes test matches between England and Australia, is to be closed to the public during the COVID-19 outbreak.

And while the facility stands empty, bosses at Durham County Cricket Club (DCCC) have said they will make it available for use by local authority and NHS staff.

Terry Collins, chief executive of Durham County Council, said: “We would like to thank DCCC for its generous and very welcome offer of support to the council and the NHS.
“It is a fantastic demonstration of community spirit – something that is vital in this time of uncertainty.

“We are looking at how we may be able to take up on the offer in order to best support the work of the council and its partners in continuing to deliver services whilst keeping people safe and well across the county.”

Club chiefs announced earlier this week (Tuesday, March 24) the ground, which staged its first ever first class cricket match in 1995 between Durham and Warwickshire, would be shut to the public and ‘non-essential staff’.

The club has already told most of its employees to work from home, but also raised the possibility of them also joining efforts to fight Coronavirus if they ‘may be of assistance’.
The players have been instructed to remain in isolation and have all been given fitness programmes to follow in the meantime.

Bosses are not believed to have put any restrictions on the site’s possible uses, paving the way for it to host everything from parking, a testing centre or simply leisure facilities for key workers.

Durham Cricket Chief Executive, Tim Bostock, said “Throughout this ongoing situation the senior leadership team at the club have been meeting on a daily basis and reviewing our operational practices in line with government advice.

“All decisions have been taken with the health and safety of our customers and staff in mind.

“Most staff have been working from home since last week and we have now taken the decision to close Emirates Riverside entirely to minimise any risks to staff and customers.”