Coronavirus wrap: Professional sport waits for details on lockdown easing

Professional sports in the UK are awaiting further details on the Government’s plans to ease the lockdown going forward as the Premier League prepares for another meeting on Project Restart later on Monday.

On Sunday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to put the brakes on a swift return to action when he said it was too soon to significantly ease the lockdown.

More information on when the next steps might be taken is expected to be put before Parliament on Monday.

That will come as the Premier League is meeting to discuss the next steps for its own return, including a discussion on safety protocols.

Monday’s meeting is not expected to include a vote on using neutral venues to complete the season, which has proven one of the most contentious issues of Project Restart so far.

Brighton, Aston Villa and Watford have been critical of the idea, despite warnings it could be a deal-breaker on football resuming at all.

Brighton announced a third Seagulls player had tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday. The PA news agency understands the rest of the squad will continue to train both at home and in solo sessions at the club’s training ground.

Two other players, whose names have also not been revealed by the club, contracted the virus earlier in the pandemic. They are understood to have since recovered but it is not clear whether or not they have returned to training yet.

In Spain, LaLiga announced five unnamed players had tested positive for the virus and would go into quarantine.

Other sporting bodies are weighing up the implications of Johnson’s announcement.

The England and Wales Cricket Board tweeted it is working closely with the Government, adding: “Everyone across the sport is hoping that we will see cricket played across England and Wales this summer.”

Formula One had been hoping to stage back-to-back races at Silverstone in July, immediately after races held in Austria, but those plans that could be impacted by Johnson’s announcement that air travellers into the UK would soon be forced to self-isolate for a 14-day period after arrival.

Johnson did give a boost to recreational sport as it was announced that people will be allowed to exercise outdoors more than once a day and play sports from Wednesday, though they must do so only with those in their own households.

The advice applies only in England, with the position in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland unchanged.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden tweeted: “In tentative steps & in the least risky outdoor environments, we can imminently allow some sports activity like golf, basketball, tennis, fishing – solo/in households. Guidance to follow.”

The R&A responded to the announcement by indicating courses in England would begin to reopen, but urged people to play responsibly.

“As a sport we must work together to resume play responsibly as and when the relevant Government determines it is safe to do so,” a statement said.

“We must ensure that the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved from golfers, to club staff and greenkeepers is maintained at all times. Golf clubs and golfers have observed the lockdown very well and must keep it up and act responsibly as play resumes.”