Crowds to be allowed back in at Glorious Goodwood, snooker and cricket matches as part of government pilot scheme
The World Snooker Championship, the Glorious Goodwood horse racing festival and two county cricket friendly matches have been selected as pilot events.
If these tests are successful, the government is hoping to allow a restricted number of spectators to return to sports venues from October 1. Mass gatherings at sports stadiums have been prohibited since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The government statement mentioned the possibility of the Surrey v Middlesex match to be played on July 26-27 being one of the events, with the World Snooker Championship due to begin on July 31.
Spectators are set to be allowed to attend the final day of the Glorious Goodwood festival on August 1.
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.’
Attendance at sporting events for the foreseeable future will be subject to a number of strict conditions.
These include venues being ordered to provide information on measures being taken to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 infection, a code of behaviour for spectators advising them to take a responsible approach, such as staying away if suffering from any symptoms of the virus.
There will also need to be careful control of seat bookings to ensure social distancing is observed, measures taken to limit the use of public transport by spectators and the provision of additional hygiene facilities.
The stage five guidance on spectators returning to sports events states that the capacity allowed in a venue will vary depending on its layout, rather than being set at a fixed percentage.
As well as the venue itself, consideration must also be given by event organisers to how safe it is for spectators to access the venue.
The guidance states that ‘competition venue capacity will be significantly reduced from normal safe capacity’.
Competition organisers will need to use the detailed guidance set to be published by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) when calculating the revised capacity of venues.
They will also need to keep the details of spectators on file for 21 days to assist with testing and tracing individuals in the event of any subsequent positive tests, and ensure that group bookings of tickets only contain people from within the same household or a permitted bubble.
At Goodwood, attendance will initially be offered to annual members and their guests.
David Armstrong, chief executive of the Racecourse Association and chair of the welcoming crowds industry group, said: ‘We welcome the fact that horseracing is to be selected as one of the pilot events to welcome back crowds and my team and I acknowledge the great responsibility upon us.
‘The safety protocols involved will be stringent and the Goodwood Racecourse team are in a fantastic place to implement them.
‘The sport has come together to offer support to ensure the pilot event provides us with sufficient learnings that others may follow in time. These learnings will allow us to draft industry-wide protocols for the wider scale return of crowds as soon as we are able.
‘Crowds bring a wonderful atmosphere to a raceday and many businesses associated with racecourses are reliant upon them.
‘I sincerely hope that all involved enjoy their day - our focus now turns to supporting the Goodwood team in what is a landmark day for the sport.’