After the government’s decision to implement a third lockdown, elite sport was given the green light to go ahead in the UK.
A series of steps to curb the spread of coronavirus, including the closing of schools and universities, were introduced on Monday by Scotland’s Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
After all non-essential shops were forced to close across the UK, the retail betting industry was also dealt a further blow, ensuring the remaining betting shops open in formerly tier one, tier two and tier three areas must be closed.
In an address to the nation, Johnson said: “With most of the country already under extreme measures, it is clear that we need to do more, together, to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out.
“In England, we must therefore go into a national lockdown which is tough enough to contain this variant. That means the Government is once again instructing you to stay at home. You may only leave home for limited reasons permitted in law.”
Strict testing regimes, as well as the introduction of existing COVID safety measures, would require the Premier League and other elite sports to continue.
The Premier League insisted that it has ‘confidence’ in its existing testing procedures in response to the announcement, stressing that, amid a spike in positive cases around the league, it has no plans to pause the season.
With the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) also expressing its confidence in its ability to maintain strict safety measures, Racing is also due to proceed behind closed doors.
“Following this evening’s broadcast, we can confirm that racing will continue behind closed doors during the upcoming national lockdown,” the BHA said.
“Attendance will be limited to those essential to the staging of fixtures and strict adherence to British racing’s COVID-19 protocols will continue to be required for all who attend.”
The promise of the two available vaccinations does give a semblance of hope that audiences will return to live sporting events, but this is still some time off for many.
Mark Bird, Managing Director of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB), reflecting on the Prime Minister’s speech, added: “I think most of us tonight expected a new National Lockdown to be announced in light of the transmissible rate of the new Covid variant.
“We believe that through having raced over the past six months, as a sport, we have clearly and responsibly demonstrated our commitment to work within all government advice and through our comprehensive and well-tested GBGB Covid-19 Operational Policy.
“We cannot be complacent in terms of us continuing to race and I would implore everyone involved in the sport to play their part to ensure that social distancing measures, the wearing of appropriate PPE and communication at all levels is maintained.
“Everyone realises that we still have a way to go before we see any real form of normality, but if we can all continue to pull together to sustain racing over the next few months, and whilst the vaccination rollout takes place, we will continue to be well placed to come through this as a sport.”