Premier League crowds could be set to return from October, under a plan to allow sport fans back into stadiums revealed by United Kingdom prime minister Boris Johnson.
Sport across the UK was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, and any events that have taken place since have been contested behind closed doors.
But spectators should not be excluded for much longer, with the gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions set to see a limited number of fans allowed to return to stadiums.
Johnson, speaking at a Downing Street briefing, said indoor live entertainment would resume subject to the success of pilot events, before adding: “We will also pilot larger gatherings in venues like sports stadia with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn.
“From October we intend to bring back audiences in stadia. These changes must be done in a COVID-secure way, subject to the successful outcome of pilots.”
Those pilot events will include the Glorious Goodwood horse racing festival on August 1, snooker’s World Championship, which runs for 17 days in Sheffield from July 31, and two county cricket friendly matches, expected to include Surrey versus Middlesex at The Oval on July 26-27.
The prime minister’s comments indicate the prospect of full stadiums remains some way off, with social distancing set to continue for the immediate future.
However, it could mean closed-door games are only a short-lived prospect.
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said: “Although it will remain some time before venues are full to capacity, this is a major step in the right direction for the resumption of live spectator sport across the country.”
The 2020-21 Premier League season is due to begin in September, and a reopening of stadiums in October would mean only the initial weeks of the season proceed without fans.
France has reopened sport stadiums to a maximum of 5,000 spectators, with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain returning to action in a friendly at Le Havre last weekend.
Johnson said it “may” be possible to move away from social distancing by November, depending on how the UK controls the pandemic, emphasising that was only a possibility.
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