SOMERSET County Cricket Club chief executive Gordon Hollins has confirmed that the club's players are among the staff members to have been placed on furlough leave amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking in a virtual press briefing this afternoon, Hollins said: "We have furloughed a lot of staff, the players and some of the coaching staff - we have done that.

"We've got those staff that we absolutely need to be operating at the current time, so players are furloughed.

"We will review that on a constant basis.

"Anyone that's furloughed needs to be furloughed for a minimum of three weeks for us to qualify for the job retention scheme, but we are looking at this on a regular basis to ensure that it's still necessary.

"Part of our challenge will be making sure that we bring people back at the right time, to prepare for whatever role they may have, and that we're ready to hit the ground running."

In terms of the players' reaction to the decision, Somerset director of cricket Andy Hurry said: "It wasn't a shock to the players or the coaching staff, as Gordon had been in regular contact with the staff, updating them on the landscape as it was evolving.

"We appreciate the collaborative work done by the ECB [England & Wales Cricket Board] and PCA [Professional Cricketers' Association] to find a game-wide solution to these challenges.

"I spoke to all the players and support staff individually to inform them that they were being furloughed, and while disappointed that they couldn't be out there training or playing, they fully appreciate and understand the difficult times that we're all facing.

"We all support the government guidance and the steps that the club is taking in furloughing staff, and I've been really impressed with the pragmatic and creative ways that the players have adapted to being furloughed and the challenges that presents.

"A significant number have taken the opportunity to develop themselves, and a huge number of the staff have undergone personal development training.

"As a club I feel very fortunate that we have such a culture - it's part of our DNA - to work hard, be physically robust and work within the government guidelines that have been set."

Asked whether any warm-up matches would need to be played to get the players ready to return, Hurry said: "We have a duty of care as a club for when the players do return, that we ensure they are ready for the demands of the game.

"Those demands are different for County Championship cricket, one-day cricket and T20 cricket.

"Ensuring that we progressively build up their workloads will be particularly key for our bowlers, as it's unrealistic to go from lockdown to playing cricket without a build-up.

"It's all very much dependent on when we can return to train.

"Ideally we'd love the opportunity to have some pre-season fixtures, but I think we have to be flexible and creative as well."

The ECB is known to be considering the option of playing matches behind closed doors, and that is something Hurry would support if necessary.

"Yes, without question [I would support it]," he said.

"Ideally everyone would be working towards trying to play cricket with people watching in the ground, but if that [behind closed doors] was the only option, then that would be a good step in the right direction.

"We're so well supported here in Somerset, that the opportunity to watch live cricket would be fantastic.

"But if the only way we could get any cricket on would be by playing behind closed doors, then everyone would be very open towards that."

With the professional cricket season now postponed until July, Hollins also addressed the financial implications of this shutdown for the club.

"We know it's going to be sore - you can't be in a business where income falls off the edge of a cliff and it not be sore," he said.

"But the extent to which it's sore depends on what the remainder of the summer looks like.

"We're so lucky to have had support from so many people over such a long period of time, and we don't take that for granted.

"It will be bumpy ahead, and I'm quite sure that we'll be asking for some support from members, supporters and corporate partners to allow us to navigate this ship through these choppy waters.

"But I will communicating with them in depth about that in due course.

"Somerset has been around since 1875, it's come through two World Wars, and it will come through this.

"My goal is for the club to come through it stronger, and in a situation where it can prosper and make a difference to cricket in Somerset and the South West."

As a club, Somerset has also done its bit for supporters at this difficult time, whether through phone calls from players or a shirt design competition for youngsters.

Hollins added that the club is "in positive conversations" about what further role it can play.

He said: "We're really keen for the club to play a role in the community.

"From what I've seen in my experiences elsewhere, the most productive relationships with local stakeholders are two-way.

"We need to be giving back to our community at this moment in time, because there's a lot of people who are struggling.

"We're in really positive conversations with the council in particular about what role we can play to help them with their challenges, and to help those people who are struggling with the current situation."