After a recent surge in coronavirus cases across the UK , the government has put plans to reintroduce crowds to live sporting events ‘on hold’.
Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet, confirmed on BBC Breakfast this morning that fans would not be returning to stadiums and outdoor venues from 1 October.
Gove also discounted any expectations for pilot projects that over the winter would have returned live sports fans to stadiums that football clubs and racing had planned to try through venues.
Following growing concerns that the lack of live spectators could lead to serious financial implications for the sectors of sports, hospitality and events, Gove reiterated that the government is trying to determine the effect of fans with sports bodies being absent for several months.
Gove told BBC Breakfast:“We’ve been piloting some open air venues and we do want to be able in due course to allow people to return to watch football and other sporting events.
“We need to be cautious at the moment and I think a mass reopening at this stage wouldn’t be appropriate.”
When asked specifically if fans should return to the stadiums, he responded ‘no’ bluntly, adding: “We were looking at a staged programme of more people returning – we weren’t going to have stadiums thronged with fans.
“We’re looking at how we can pause that programme but we want to make sure that when circumstances allow, we get more people back. The virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors but again it’s in the nature of major sporting events that there’s a lot of mingling.”
It came ahead of the ‘lunchtime announcement’ of PM Boris Johnson and televised address (expected at 20:00), which will detail further covid restrictions scheduled for Autumn across corporate and industrial sectors, as the government increased the COVID-19 warning level to level four yesterday.
Gove also pointed to broader sporting activities that took place before the lockdown, but it did not indicate that the visit of Atletico Madrid to Anfield or the Cheltenham Festival had any impact on the decision of the government.
He also added: “People look back at the beginning of the pandemic and look at some of the major sporting events and ask the question ‘why were they allowed to go ahead?’
“We must look at sporting events now with caution but we also recognise that sport is a vital part of the life of this nation and we’re looking at everything that we can do in order to support our athletes and our great clubs through what will be a challenging time.”
Last night, a number of sports industry leaders wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to accept the sector’s emergency funding, warning that Covid-19’s effect could contribute to a lost generation of sport and operation.’
The letter said: “We require a comprehensive support package for the sport and physical sector to aid its recovery. This package must combine investment, tax incentives, and regulatory reform.
“Covid-19 has undermined our commercial revenue streams with both stadiums and leisure facilities closed or greatly reduced in capacity.”