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English culture and sport could resume behind closed doors from June 1

English culture and sports could begin from June 1 behind closed doors for broadcast, while the French Open could also be played behind closed doors and Danish Superliga football club AGF Aarhus has begun offering Zoom ‘tickets’…

UK roadmap

The UK Government has outlined its plans for bringing England out of lockdown, with the potential for cultural and sporting events to resume behind closed doors from June 1.

The 51-page dossier, published on Monday afternoon, lays out a three-phased strategy for easing restrictions that were put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The second phase permits cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed doors for broadcast “while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact” from June 1.

It says: “Some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to re-open safely at this point, or may be able to open safely only in part.

“Nevertheless, the Government will wish to open as many businesses and public places as the data and information at the time allows.”

The advice notes that to ensure the fastest possible re-opening pubs, restaurants and other higher risk venues will only be opened in a phased way with “pilot re-openings to test their ability to adopt the new Covid-19 Secure guidelines”.

The document continues: “The Government will also monitor carefully the effects of reopening other similar establishments elsewhere in the world, as this happens.”

The document also states that spectators may not be able to attend some venues until a vaccine for the virus has been found and sports stadia will come “significantly later” than the lifting of other restrictions.

It states that it is the Government’s “ambition” to start reopening other leisure facilities from July 4 at the earliest but stresses that it is likely that reopening venues that attract large crowds like sports stadia “may only be possible significantly later depending on the reduction in numbers of infections.”

French Open

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) has said the 2020 French Open could be played behind closed doors after announcing it would refund all tickets purchased for the original dates by the end of May.

The tournament at Roland Garros, which was originally scheduled to take place May 24 to June 7, was postponed due to COVID-19 and rescheduled for September 20 to October 4.

FFT president Bernard Giudicelli has told French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche: “Organising it without fans would allow a part of the economy to keep turning, (like) television rights and partnerships. It’s not to be overlooked. We’re not ruling any option out.”

The original rescheduling was widely criticised as it clashed with the hardcourt season, and recent reports have speculated that the French Open could be rescheduled again.

The FFT said a new ticketing procedure would be opened if the event goes ahead with fans.

Danish football Zoom ‘tickets’

Danish Superliga football club AGF Aarhus has come up with a novel way for fans to watch their team by offering ‘virtual’ Zoom tickets to the upcoming match against Randers.

It is hoped the Superliga season can resume behind closed doors in late May. The first fixture that will be played when the league does restart will be AGF’s derby against Randers as this was the only game from matchday 24 that did not go ahead due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Even though Superliga matches will be played without fans at the stadia, AGF has devised a plan that will enable supporters to ‘virtually’ attend the game against Randers.

AGF has teamed up with video communications service Zoom to give fans the chance to watch the match with one another. As part of the initiative, the club will create 22 different Zoom calls to replicate 22 sections of its Ceres Park stadium. Neutral and away zones will also be created.

Image: Steve Daniels / Happy fans in the County Ground / CC BY-SA 2.0