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Climate Change Could End The Boxing Day Cricket Test For Good

The annual Boxing Day Test might have to be moved to a cooler time of year, with climate change potentially putting the fixture -- and players -- in danger.

According to a new report commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation, climate change could mean the date of the Boxing Day Test has to be moved to a different time, because the heat of December may one day prove too harsh for players to compete in.

The report -- 'Caught behind: Climate change, extreme heat and the Boxing Day Test' -- urges Cricket Australia "take effective climate action to safeguard the future" of the sport in Australia. It also advises the game's governing body to move the Test match to a colder time of year, such as November or March, to avoid the hottest parts of summer.

Image: Getty

The report about climate change and sport is timely, coming just a week after thick smoke from bushfires forced the cancellation of a Big Bash match in Canberra, due to concerns over air quality and visibility.

"Looking forward, high-resolution climate models show that under current emissions scenarios, the number of days at 35°C or above will increase," the report warned.

"Despite the extensive heat management resources available to professional teams, continuing to play the Boxing Day Test in its current format at the end of December will expose players and fans to unprecedented levels of extreme heat."

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As fires continue to burn across NSW, thousands have stepped out in Sydney's CBD for an emergency climate rally urging politicians to take action on climate policy.

A report in October, 'Heat, Humanity and the Hockey Stick: Climate Change and Sport in Canberra', commissioned by the ACT government, found sport needed to adapt to climate change. The findings highlighted the "heat stress" athletes would suffer in rising temperatures.

"Understanding heat exposure as a genuine health threat and sporting challenge, and reducing exposure will become a critical challenge as the ACT experiences more frequent, and more intense heatwaves," the report said.

The report also claimed legal action against organisations could become more common as a "duty of care" is owed to athletes competing in extreme weather conditions.

The Boxing Day Test is one of the most revered days in Australian sport. Image: Getty

This sentiment is echoed in Friday's report.

"There is growing discussion that, under the Australian Corporations Act, company directors could potentially be held legally responsible if they continue to let climate risk go through to the keeper," the the Monash said.

"Directors of Cricket Australia could face liability under the Corporations Act for failing to adequately address and report these risks."

"In addition, Cricket Australia and its directors could be liable for breaches of State and Territory health and safety laws for failing to adequately address the health risks posed to both players and the public."

Callum Ferguson of Thunder looks on after play was suspended after thick smoke from the bushfires halted play during the Big Bash League. Image: Getty

Cricket matches this season in Australia have already been affected by extreme weather events.

Sydney Thunder coach Shane Bond said the umpiring of smoky conditions is a "really, really hard" challenge for Cricket Australia, after his side's Big Bash match against the Adelaide Strikers at Manuka Oval was abandoned last week due to the smoke.

Some players were reportedly treated for smoke inhalation.

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Sydney Thunder coach Shane Bond says it'll be hard for Cricket Australia to formulate protocols and policies regarding what do in case of smoky conditions.

Earlier this month, a Sheffield Shield match in Sydney was played in a blanket of smoke from the raging bushfires around the state.

At the time, a Cricket Australia spokesperson defended the decision to continue the match despite backlash from fans.

"There's an index that measures what is considered reasonable and it didn't get high enough to be considered a problem," they told 10 daily.

The Sydney Cricket Ground was blanketed in smoke during day 3 of the Sheffield Shield match between New South Wales and Queensland. Image: AAP

A day later, the Perth Test match between Australia and New Zealand was under threat after the Western Australian Bureau of Meteorology issued a heatwave warning.

Cricket is far from the only sport to have been impacted by the unprecedented bushfires raging around the country.

The A-League and W-League have also been on smoke-watch nationwide, with warnings that a number of games could have been called off due to the hazy conditions.

During a W-League match between Adelaide United and Canberra United, team trainers were called on to provide inhalers for players struggling to breathe from the smoke caused by the fires in South Australia.

Golfers at the Australian Open in early December also complained of the 'hazardous' smoke conditions they were forced to endure during the tournament in Sydney.

"Your eyes do burn up. I've got that cough like you've got something in your lungs, phlegm in your lungs or whatever, but it's not fun," former champion Matt Jones said at the time.

Ryan Chisnall of NZ plays with a face mask on a smoggy hazy course during the 1st round of the 2019 Emirates Australian Open. Image: AAP

As early as 2015, The Climate Institute -- which has now been folded into The Australia Institute -- warned of the effects of climate change on sport, saying sports including AFL, athletics, cycling, golf, netball, rugby, surfing and tennis were "exposed" to climate risks.

The effects of climate change are being anticipated already at different sporting events, including the upcoming 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

In November, the International Olympic Committee made the decision to move the marathon event for the cooler city of Sapporo, after fears of heatwave conditions in Tokyo.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike (L) speaks next to Japan's Minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games Seiko Hashimoto (2nd L), discussing the Tokyo marathon move. Image: Getty

The IOC has other heat-related problems on their hands when it comes to the Winter Olympics.

A 2014 report found 19 previous host cities of the Winter Games would not be cold enough to host another event by 2050.

In the U.K., a report by The Climate Coalition used Scotland's Montrose Golf Course as a case study in to the effects of climate change on the country.

It found that the seaside golf course is under serious threat of being flooded from rising water levels.

Average temperatures and projected temperatures for the years between 1970-1990, 2010-2030 and 2040-2060. Image: Nike

Global sporting brand Nike is also taking steps to "a zero carbon, zero waster future" with its 'Move to Zero' campaign.

"We exist to serve athletes everywhere and that’s why we’re on a mission to protect the future of sport," it said.

"Because protecting the future of sport means doing our part to protect the planet."

Australian Matildas soccer star Sam Kerr lent her voice to the campaign, saying climate change is "becoming a bigger factor in my life and sport".

"In Australia it is constantly top of mind," she said for the Nike campaign.

"It’s clear that now is the time for all of us to take action to protect this planet for future generations.”