The UK government has announced a further batch of sporting events that will be used to pilot the safe return of spectators, after the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, confirmed it was safe for the trials to resume from 15 August.
The new phase of the programme began with the finals of the World Snooker Championships at the Crucible, in the city of Sheffield, on 15-16 August and will continue with events including a Brighton & Hove Albion soccer pre-season friendly today (Saturday) against Chelsea.
Range of different event styles
All of these events have been selected to test a range of different event styles across the country’s major men’s and women’s spectator sports. A number of successful pilots have already been completed as part of the programme’s initial phase, including snooker at the Crucible and cricket at Edgbaston in Birmingham and the Oval in London.
The initial tranche of pilot events will take place over the coming weeks, building up throughout September with a view to a full reopening for fans in October.
According to an official government statement, the pilots will only take place if the latest scientific and medical advice allows for them to proceed in a Covid-secure way, and they will be paused again if the advice suggests that conditions in the local area are not met.
A cautious and phased approach
“I know fans and their teams can’t wait to be reunited in stadia across the country but it’s imperative we take a cautious and phased approach to get fans back in safely,” said Britain’s Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden.
“I’m pleased that infection rates have levelled off enough to resume the pilot programme and we will continue to work intensively with sports, medical and health and safety experts towards welcoming more fans back as fast as we can.”
Dowden added: “Some events previously agreed as pilots went ahead behind closed doors earlier this month after a rise in infection rates led to the government pausing its roadmap for recovery on 31 July. But on 13 August, the Prime Minister confirmed that the latest public health data showed it was safe to resume activities and reopenings that had been postponed.”
Another pilot game takes place tomorrow (Sunday) when Lewes FC and London Bees clash in a women’s soccer pre-season friendly.