Today, Sports minister Nigel Huddleston has announced that a small number of sporting events will be used to pilot the safe return of spectators through late July and early August, in the hope that fans can return to elite sporting events in October.

The statement says that guidence has been developed by UK Sport, in consultation with the Deputy CMO of England, Public Health England and other sports bodies. Sporting events have been closed to the public since lockdown was imposed on the 23rd March, due to the COVID19 pandemic.

Welcome changes

All events to be included in the study are relaitvly low risk, with many happening in large outdoor arenas where social distancing can be easily maintained; And snooker, which while indoors, is considered a low risk due to its sedentary nature.

In the statement, Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “For months millions of us have felt the void of being unable to go to the match to support our team or attend a top-class sporting event. So I am pleased that we are now able to move forward with a plan to help venues safely reopen their doors to fans.

“I recognise that not every sport, team or club has the benefit of huge commercial revenue, and it is often their dedicated fans that are the lifeblood which helps keep them going. By working closely with sports and medical experts, these pilots will help ensure the safe return of fans to stadia.

“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.”

Todays statement follows the conclusion of the government’s fifth stage of consultation between sports authorities and event organisers to allow a limited amount of events ‘to be exempt from border health measures and get underway this summer’.

The new government advice states those holding events must adhere to the following guidelines.

  • Before buying tickets spectators are to be given information on the steps being implemented to minimise the risk of COVID-19, including any modifications being made to the venue.
  • Spectators must agree to a new code of behaviour obliging them to take full responsibility for themselves and others by not attending if they have any symptoms or have potentially been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
  • Bookings must be managed so that social distancing is observed in seating arrangements; attendance will be minimised so people can remain distanced.
  • Spectators must be supported to avoid public transport, including through parking facilities, bike and walking routes. However, (hypocritically) a transport plan with local and national providers should be in place to increase service frequency if needed.
  • Crowd control plans need to be in place, including the controlled entry and exit of spectators (including staggering entry times), and one-way systems inside the venues.
  • Additional hygiene facilities, such as hand washing and sanitising stations should be provided (at entry and exit points to the venue, and the seating areas).
  • Screens or barriers should be used to separate people from each other when social distancing cannot be guaranteed.
  • Signage and floor markings should be posted both inside and outside venues to enforce social distancing, seating plans, one-way systems and queuing requirements.
  • Spectator medical requirements should be considered, such as additional isolation rooms, and screening customers when they enter the venue. (Temperature checks).

Government state that sport is a devolved matter and this guidance is applicable to elite sports in England. Those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should refer to guidance from the devolved administrations.

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