Fans allowed back in to select pilot events from Saturday


Pilot events to test the safe return of spectators will resume from Saturday in the hope that fans can attend sporting venues from the start of October.

The events will start with the final of the World Snooker Championship at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre this weekend, with a full pilot programme to follow.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called off planned pilot events with some fans in attendance during the first two weeks of August amid fears over the coronavirus infection rate.

2019 Betfred Snooker World Championship – Day One – The Crucible
2019 Betfred Snooker World Championship – Day One – The Crucible

But the government has now sanctioned the public attending a small number of sporting events, with a view to reopening competition venues for sports fans, with social distancing measures in place, from October 1.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “The nation’s hard work to keep the virus under control means we can now make further careful progress on recovery with allowing audiences back for indoor performances, fans back at sports events and the reopening of more Covid-19 secure leisure businesses.

“We must all continue to stay alert but today’s welcome news means these organisations can finally get going safely, and we can enjoy more of the things we love as a nation.

“I have no doubt that they will work incredibly hard to keep their fans, patrons, and customers safe.”

Last month’s two-day cricket clash between Surrey and Middlesex had signalled the return of some fans to live sport, and two more county friendlies also saw spectators through the gates.

The World Snooker Championship started its first day with fans in attendance, and around 5,000 racegoers had been due to attend the Glorious Goodwood Festival on August 1.

Surrey v Middlesex – Friendly – Day Two – Kia Oval
Surrey v Middlesex – Friendly – Day Two – Kia Oval

But those plans were shelved abruptly, with the government determined to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The plan set out in the ‘roadmap to recovery’ was paused for two weeks but will now resume from Saturday, except for specific areas where local restrictions are in place.

The PA news agency understands the England and Wales Cricket Board welcomes the news and is looking forward to working with the government, but do not yet know what games will be part of any pilot.