Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, Nigel Huddleston MP, remains hopeful that crowds will return to stadia for elite sport fixtures from October 1 – despite the cancellation of a number of test events.
A sharp rise of Covid-19 cases resulted in the likes of the FA Trophy and FA Vase finals at Wembley – which will have up to 10,000 fans in attendance – being delayed, having been scheduled for Sunday, September 27.
In addition, no more than six people are permitted to gather indoors or outside.
With the number of coronavirus cases increasing, there have been fears football fans won’t be allowed back into games next month.
Tracey Crouch voiced concerns that National League clubs could hit serious financial problems if they’re unable to receive any gate revenue when the 2020-21 campaign starts on October 3.
But in a letter to the Chatham and Aylesford MP, Huddleston said there’s still the intention to allow crowds back at elite sports, albeit at a reduced capacity to maintain social distancing.
He wrote: ‘The government wants to see spectators back at sports events as soon and as safely as possible.
‘We have made important progress in staging a series of pilot and test events across different sports with more to follow.
‘The pilot programme will continue throughout September, restricted to a maximum capacity of 1,000 people.
‘The success of these events will be reviewed ahead of the current date of October 1 for reopening for socially distanced spectators under covid-secure conditions more widely if public health conditions permit.
‘The events have been selected to test a range of different event styles across the country's major men's and women's sports.
‘A number of successful pilots have already been completed, including snooker at the Crucible, cricket at Edgbaston and football at Brighton and Hove Albion.
‘In football's case, the FA's definition means that only leagues below National League north and south can continue with spectators.
‘However, subject to the successful staging of the pilot programme and the wider public health conditions, we hope to reopen elite sports fixtures including the National League for socially distanced spectators under covid-secure conditions from October 1.
‘We continue to work closely with a whole range of sports to understand the latest thinking that may allow increased numbers of spectators to return.
‘This includes the creation of a new Sports Technology Innovation Working Group of sporting bodies and health experts to analyse new technologies which might support this.’
Pompey fans haven’t attended a game at Fratton Park since a 2-2 draw with Fleetwood on Tuesday, March 10.
The Blues brought the curtain up on their 2020-21 League One campaign with a goalless stalemate against Shrewsbury, with the game taking place behind closed doors.
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