The UK’s plans for the partial return of sports fans to stadiums on October 1 have been paused due to a spike in COVID-19 cases and several local lockdowns.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson today (Tuesday) confirmed that the intention to allow 30 per cent of a venue’s capacity back in one week’s time has been halted, along with the pilot events programme, which has been hosting test events with up to 1,000 spectators.
The prime minister also said restrictions are likely to remain in place for the next six months.
He said: “We have to acknowledge the spread of the virus is now affecting our ability to reopen large sporting events.”
The recent rise in COVID-19 cases over the last month has seen plans revised with pilot events in England restricted to 1,000 people.
Johnson added: “We will not be able to do this from 1 October and I recognise the implications for our sports clubs, which are the life and soul of our communities
“The chancellor and the culture secretary are working urgently on what we can do now to support them.”
Sports governing bodies, including those from football, rugby, cricket, Formula 1 and horse racing, have been warned to prepare for no spectators throughout the winter until at least March.
Officials from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) told a meeting of the sporting bodies on Tuesday, which was attended by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, that the ban on fans will be kept under review.
The UK government has announced plans to provide an urgent rescue package for as many as eight sports, as many clubs face financial ruin due to a lack of ticket sales.
The news comes after more than 100 sporting organisations, including the Premier League and the Rugby Football Union (RFU), wrote to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging the government to set up a “comprehensive support package” for the sport and physical sector. The calls for help combine investment, tax incentives, and regulatory reform in order to prop up clubs, organisations and facilities to stabilise and survive.
It reads: “We are united in our concern that at a time when our role should be central to the nation’s recovery, the future of the sector is perilous. Covid–19 has exposed the fragility of vital services and assets, with sports clubs and fitness facilities facing permanent closure, depriving local communities of facilities and programmes on which they depend.
“Covid-19 has undermined our commercial revenue streams with both stadia and leisure facilities closed or greatly reduced in capacity. The impact of this will potentially lead to a lost generation of sport and activity. In order to play our fullest role, we must survive and stabilise.”
Following today’s news, the new National League football season, which was scheduled to kick off on October 3, has been delayed.
Clubs in the fifth tier of English football have been told that the season cannot begin without allowing spectators to attend.
The league had previously received approval to hold pilot events with fans, with up to 1,000 people expected to attend friendly matches at Dagenham & Redbridge, Yeovil Town, Dartford and Notts County on September 22 and 26.