'What a joke': Uproar over 'disgraceful' border call for Ashes

WA Premier Mark McGowan, pictured here speaking to the media in Perth.
Perth's ability to host the fifth Ashes Test remains in doubt. Image: Getty

Reports that cricketers will face relaxed biosecurity restrictions when they enter Western Australia for the fifth Ashes Test have sparked backlash around Australia.

Perth's ability to host the match in January remains under a cloud thanks to Western Australia's strict border policy and English players' reluctance to accept biosecurity restrictions beyond their quarantine stint.

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Last week, WA Premier Mark McGowan said the state's border would only open when 90 per cent of the population (aged 12 years and older) have been double vaccinated.

That isn't likely to happen until late January or early February, throwing the fifth Ashes Test - scheduled to be played on January 14 - into huge uncertainty.

However WA cricket officials insisted on Thursday that the drop in case numbers in NSW (the location of the fourth Test) is helping their chances of Cricket Australia and the Western Australian government reaching an agreement to cross the closed border.

One likely plan includes a push to have quarantine reduced from two weeks to four or five days for the players arriving from the Sydney Test.

As things currently stand, there is only a four-day gap between the SCG and Perth matches, meaning the Test would either need to be pushed back one day to January 15 or be started under quarantine protocols.

But according to The West Australian, biosecurity restrictions are expected to be considerably lower for players and support staff than the general public.

Anyone travelling from NSW to Western Australia is currently required to self-quarantine for 14 days after gaining approval to enter the state.

Reports of relaxed restrictions for cricketers sparked huge debate, with many labelling the move unfair for everyday Aussies.

England players, pictured here at an Ashes squad training session on the Gold Coast.
England players at an Ashes squad training session on the Gold Coast. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images for Cricket Australia)

“I thought cricket wasn’t going to be getting special treatment?" tweeted Brett Sprigg of the ABC.

"I’m happy for Perth to keep its Test match. But give other people an opportunity to see their family, too.”

Channel 10 presenter Caty Price wrote: “What a joke … would quite like to see my family at some point but hey I guess cricket trumps all that hey.

"I would actually love to see Cricket Australia get a backbone and stand up to this instead of being party to keeping Australians apart. Sport has a powerful voice - time to use it.”

Oliver Peterson tweeted: “As much as I love cricket and I want the Ashes Test in Perth in January … Why can’t WA Govt also relax the requirements for West Australians in NSW or Victoria to come home for Christmas?

"Do they need to practice their cricket? Create a bubble? Become Hollywood actors?”

Natalie Yoannidis of Channel 10 posted: “Double standards much?! Disgraceful!”

WA cricket boss confident of holding Perth Test

Any agreement on conditions would also need the sign-off from both Australia and England's playing group.

"There is talk around somewhere between the four and the seven days (quarantine), so that is an issue that is being dealt with," WA Cricket chief executive Christina Matthews said on Thursday.

"We remain very positive. We know that things are moving in the right direction. What we don't know is when the final details will be put to bed.

"We will wait as we have always done for our government to sign off on it."

Matthews' comments come after WA Premier Mark McGowan last week declared he was "very confident" a plan could be made to allow the series finale to be played in Perth.

WACA CEO Christina Matthews, pictured here addressing the media in Perth.
WACA CEO Christina Matthews addresses the media in Perth. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images for Cricket Australia)

Matthews said she was aware any move to minimise quarantine time could draw criticism, given the hard-line stance the state government had taken through the pandemic.

But she believed the government would be willing to do whatever possible to ensure the match was played at the 60,000-seat Optus Stadium.

"The Ashes Test match is a massive event. As big, if not bigger than the AFL grand final in terms of being on a worldwide scale," Matthews said.

"I don't think it's something the government wants to lose easily. So they are working really hard to make it happen.

"There is always going to be someone who is unhappy with the arrangement and someone who has had an unfortunate experience with the (border) process.

"We'll stick to what we're doing and what we know, and hope that cricket fans get an opportunity to be part of the first ever Ashes Test at Optus Stadium."

with AAP

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