COVID ‘killjoy’ in fans’ return to UK events

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UK not back with fans before November Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

Much to the consternation of fans, UK Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove has said that spectators will not be able to return to sports events in England next month as initially planned, with tighter restrictions set to be imposed amid re-emergence of COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom.

The Government had previously targeted October 1st as a date for the wider return of sports fans across England following a number of pilot events. Attendances at the ongoing pilot events have already been capped at 1,000 due to coronavirus surge but greater restrictions are set to be laid out by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The pilot program, which includes events across a number of sports such as football, cricket and rugby league, is all set to be paused thanks to COVID applying the brakes and it is unclear when fans will be able to return to stadia.

“We were looking at a staged program of more people returning – it wasn’t going to be the case that we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans,” Gove told mediapersons.

“We’re looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that program, but what we do want to do is to make sure that, as and when circumstances allow, we get more people back. The virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors but again it’s in the nature of major sporting events that there’s a lot of mingling,” Gove added.

Gove had also deliberated on staging matches at full capacity back in March, just before UK went into lockdown. England’s professional football club Liverpool FC’s Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League match against Spanish professional football club Atlético Madrid has been attributed for a spike in cases in the City leading to an investigation by the council.

Gove continued, “People look back now at the beginning of the pandemic at some of the major sporting events then and ask the question ‘Why were they allowed to go ahead?’

“What we must do is look at sporting events now with caution but we also recognize that sport is a vital part of this nation and we’re looking at everything we can do to support our athletes, our great clubs, through what will be a challenging time.”

The development comes on the heels of 100 sporting organizations, including the Premier League and the Rugby Football Union (RFU), writing to the Prime Minister 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, organizations and facilities to stabilize and survive in this COVID environment which has had a disastrous effect on the sports venue sector.

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