Sports Leaders Call For clarity On Procedures And Guarantees Amid Lockdown

The government has confirmed that ‘elite sports can continue behind closed doors’ amid a pending month of lockout restrictions approved across England.

Despite relief to prevent a full cancellation of the sports calendar, however, UK bodies remain doubtful as to how the government can ensure protection for COVID-19 and more financial help for affected broader stakeholders and locations facing an autumn of crisis.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announced that with UK racing scheduled to host its first jump meetings on Thursday 5 November, it will press for clarification on racetrack restrictions in terms of participation.

BHA Chief Executive Nick Rust said he would ‘fight hard’ to retain owners with the inclusion of runners inside UK racetracks, but emphasised that no promises could be made. Speaking to Racing TV, Rust noted that during lockdown, he had been given a list of owners’ questions about participation conditions under which racing seeks to avoid distinct agreements between Scotland and Wales in England.

In the meantime, despite PM Boris Johnson’s assurances that ‘football would remain uninterrupted,’ the FA would issue a brief statement stressing that clarifications about how Lockout constraints will affect non-league football across England would be required.

The FA needs urgency on the matter as nine amateur sides are included in its FA Cup, which are expected to play their knockout fixtures from 6-9 November.

The EFL announced that it would support the government’s decision in which the ‘most stringent, robust and regularly reviewed protocols to ensure stadiums were covid-secure and stop the spread of the virus’.

EFL President Ricky Parry wrote to HM Treasury last week, reaffirming fears that EFL owners with an expense of £ 400 million per season could not protect their club futures unless the government promised ‘acceptable financial bailout’ terms.

Hosting its ‘ATP Tour Finals’ marquee at London’s 02 Arena (15-22 November), tennis’ ATP said its end-of-season event will proceed ‘behind closed doors’ as O2 facilities pursue unique ‘bubble arrangements’ to ensure the safety and hosting of top-eight ranked players and doubles teams for tennis.

GBGB Managing Director Mark Bird stressed the sporting relief for UK greyhounds at the end of its flagship Derby race on Saturday night at Nottingham Greyhound Stadium as the government declared a further lockdown.

Bird reported that DCMS is awaiting a formal decision by the UK Greyhounds as to whether the sport will be permitted to proceed under conditions of lockdown.

In GBGB’s response, Bird detailed: “After an already incredibly tough year and whilst everyone remains delighted that the Derby has reached its final tonight, we are all aware that the government has again been deliberating as to how to respond to the increase in Covid cases.

“We will report back ahead of further conversations with officials at DCMS but in the meantime we ask everyone to remain united and optimistic that we can continue racing whilst being observant to overall public safety.”