PM paves way for fans to return to stadiums

The government has paved the way for fans to return to stadiums from October after Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined the next steps to ease coronavirus restrictions.

The Prime Minister said trials would begin to see larger gatherings occur in places like sports stadiums as well as announcing most remaining leisure centres would be allowed to reopen on August 1.

Mass gatherings at sports grounds have been banned since March as part of social distancing measures brought in to combat the pandemic.

But as the Prime Minister set out the next stage of the recovery road map he said the government were hopeful crowds could return after some test events from October onwards.

“We will pilot larger gatherings in venues such as sports stadia with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn,” Johnson said. “All of these measures, for August 1, should be done in a Covid-secure way.

“From October we intend to bring back audiences in stadia and allow conferences and other business events to recommence, again these changes must be done in a Covid-secure way subject to the successful outcome of pilots.”

The upcoming World Snooker Championships in Sheffield, the Glorious Goodwood horse racing festival and two men’s county cricket friendly matches are set to be among the pilot events.

The government said the “events have been carefully selected to represent a range of sports and indoor and outdoor spectator environments”.

The World Snooker Championships begin on July 31 at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, while Surrey’s friendly with Middlesex on July 26 and 27 has also been earmarked, as has Goodwood, which starts on August 1.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has previously said top-flight clubs are keen to act as “test pilots” for any experiments around a phased reopening of stadiums.

He has said that football will not be “back with a capital B” until crowds return.

Depending on how many fans are allowed back, it could be a major boost to the finances of clubs in the English Football League who rely heavily on match day revenue.

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