After watching plans to get fans back into live sports events last time around fall flat, the UK government is going to give their pilot scheme another try.
The previous plan at the end of July fell by the wayside when mini spikes of Covid-19 popped up across the country, meaning that proposed events over the weekend of July 31 and August 1 – including Glorious Goodwood and World Championship Snooker – were held behind closed doors. At the Crucible, 300 fans who enjoyed the morning session were asked to leave the auditorium at the end of the action.
But there will be some form of redemption this weekend after Boris Johnson announced that another 300 spectators will be allowed into the iconic venue to watch all sessions of the World Championship final, which will be contested by either Ronnie O’Sullivan or Mark Selby and Kyren Wilson or Anthony McGill.
The government released a press statement, which read:
“The piloting of a small number of sporting events to test the safe return of spectators will resume from August 15 with a view to reopening competition venues for sports fans, with social distancing measures in place from October 1.
“This will commence with the final of the World Snooker Championship at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre during August 15-16, with a full pilot programme to follow.”
The new football season gets underway on September 12, however it is not thought that matches in any of the top four English leagues are being considered as a trial event. However, fans could return in October – although the Daily Mail is returning that they may be banned from singing their team’s chants to attempt to stop the spread of the virus.
And in the MLS, 3,000 fans attended the game between FC Dallas and Nashville on Wednesday – they all had to sign a waiver to say that they wouldn’t sue if they contracted coronavirus at the match.
Horse Riding Facing Its Final Hurdle
There’s hope for horse racing fans too in the government’s announcement, with Doncaster’s St Leger meeting – which begins on September 9 – is being considered as a pilot event for the return of punters at trackside. The Cambridgeshire festival at Newmarket, which gets underway on September 24, is another option thought to be on the shortlist.
Glorious Goodwood was set for a huge boost when it was announced as a previous pilot event, with 5,000 spectators expected for the final day of the festival. Organisers had gone to extreme lengths to keep the site COVID-safe, and on course bookies were even set to trial contactless payments in what could be the future for the industry.
But with infection rates on the up, the planned test events were cancelled at the eleventh hour.
The Racecourse Association’s chief executive, David Armstrong, said:
“We’re still waiting to hear confirmation of what plans may or may not be approved by DCMS, but we were pleased last night to hear the announcement about the resumption of pilots.
“The immediate next step is awaiting confirmation from DCMS on when those will be, which fixtures etc, so there’s no firm news and no official timetable. I am hoping we’ll hear in the next few days but absolutely it’s a positive sign.”