Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the UK government has announced today that a small number of sporting events will be used to pilot the safe return of spectators over the next few weeks.
These pilot events will take commence through late July and early August and form part of the #EnjoySummerSafely campaign, which was announced by Boris Johnson in a live press conference earlier today.
A view to reopening competition venues for sports fans, with necessary social distancing measures in place, is to be introduced from 1st October 2020, but only “if it is safe to do so”.
All sports venues have been closed to spectators since lockdown measures were implemented on 23 March 2020, however in recent weeks, certain elite sports have resumed behind closed doors, including Premier League and Championship football, and international cricket.
According to guidance provided on the gov.uk website, the pilot sporting events chosen to take place over the next couple of weeks have been carefully selected to represent a range of sports and indoor and outdoor spectator environments, and are expected to include two men’s county cricket friendly matches, the World Snooker Championship from 31st July, and the Glorious Goodwood horse racing festival on 1st August.
There are also likely to be further pilot events for other sports in order to build up to and prepare for the full, socially distanced return of sporting events from 1st October, but these are yet to be announced.
Speaking on the announcement of these pilot events, Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “For months millions of us have felt the void of being unable to go to the match to support our team or attend a top-class sporting event, so I am pleased that we are now able to move forward with a plan to help venues safely reopen their doors to fans.”
“I recognise that not every sport, team or club has the benefit of huge commercial revenue, and it is often their dedicated fans that are the lifeblood which helps keep them going.”
“By working closely with sports and medical experts, these pilots will help ensure the safe return of fans to stadia. Although it will remain some time before venues are full to capacity, this is a major step in the right direction for the resumption of live spectator sport across the country”.
The pilot events will provide the opportunity to stress-test the government’s ‘stage five’ guidance, on the return of fans to elite sports events.
More information in relation to this be found detailed in full here.
Further guidance outlining the licensing obligations for sports stadia and how venue operators must calculate safe capacities in line with social distancing restrictions is expected to be published by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority in due course.
For more information and guidance amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, do ensure you refer to official gov.uk/coronavirus sources here.