Green light for fans to return to stadiums: Boris Johnson announces sports grounds could let spectators back in from October with test events including cricket starting in just NINE DAYS’ time in the latest lifting of the UK’s lockdown
- Crowds could return to UK sports stadiums from October as lockdown lifted
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the announcement on Friday morning
- It would be subject to a series of successful test events from later this month
- County Championship cricket, horse racing and snooker among pilot events
- Sport has taken placed behind closed doors since lockdown in March
- Premier League clubs had anticipated the news and have canvassed fans
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced crowds could return to sports stadiums in the United Kingdom from October subject to successful pilot events starting later this month.
Sports events have taken place without crowds in attendance since March because of the risk of spreading coronavirus.
But laying out the next steps in lifting lockdown on Friday morning, Johnson said: ‘From 1 August, we will restart indoor performance to a live audience, subject to the success of pilots, and we will also pilot larger gatherings in venues like sports stadia, with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn.
‘From October, we intend to bring back audiences in stadia. Again, these changes must be done in a Covid-secure way, subject to the successful outcome of pilots.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said crowds could return to sports stadiums from October
Premier League fixtures have been taking place behind closed doors since football returned last month. Pictured is Wednesday night’s Arsenal vs Liverpool game at the Emirates Stadium
It raises the possibility that only the first month of the 2020-21 football season will be played out behind closed doors, with supporters allowed back in the autumn.
The pilot events – which would see a limited number of spectators admitted to stadiums with social distancing rules observed – could begin this month.
It has been reported that pilot events will include the County Championship warm-up cricket match between Surrey and Middlesex at The Oval on July 26, the Glorious Goodwood race meet between July 28 and August 1, and the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible from July 31.
However, the experience of attending a sporting event will undoubtedly change for the near-future at least.
Capacities are likely to be restricted so that social distancing of at least one metre can be safely observed until those guidelines are relaxed nationwide.
Guidelines suggest that fans may have to adhere to staggered entry times in order to avoid queues forming at turnstiles, while they may have to complete health questionnaires in advance and submit to temperature checks upon arrival.
Fans will be advised to avoid public transport in travelling to and from stadiums if possible while screens showing live action on concourses and at betting outlets will likely be removed or turned off.
A County Championship warm-up match at The Oval between Surrey and Middlesex on July 26 will be one of the pilot events with a limited number of spectators admitted
The World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, starting on July 31 and won last year by Judd Trump (pictured), will also see spectators admitted in limited numbers
Sportsmail reported last week that Premier League clubs have informed fans they expect they’ll be able to return to attend matches early next season.
Premier League clubs are already canvassing fans to gauge opinion on a return to stadiums. Some of the key issues on which clubs are looking for feedback from fans are:
- How to fairly distribute tickets if, as expected, capacities are reduced
- Whether fans would be happy to disclose their health details
- How they would travel to games and if they would feel safe taking public transport to matches
- Whether season-ticket holders would be satisfied with not sitting in their normal seats
Football fans will be hopeful of returning to stadiums early during the 2020-21 season
The Test match between England and West Indies is ongoing without fans at Old Trafford
The arrival and departure of supporters is emerging as a big issue as clubs look to implement measures to ensure their safety.
Clubs are exploring the possibility of issuing staggered arrival and departure times for fans during the opening phase of allowing them back into grounds.
Other sports to have taken place behind closed doors in the UK include Test cricket matches between England and West Indies, snooker tournaments at Milton Keynes and horse racing meets.
The potential for fans to return to stadiums will come as a financial lifeline for EFL and non-league football clubs who rely on gate receipts and matchday income for a large proportion of their revenue.
Likewise, clubs will not feel more confidence selling season tickets to fans for next season.