It was the news that we have all been waiting for.
Boris Johnson has unveiled his roadmap for lifting the lockdown gloom in England and returning to a sense of normality by the summer with a softly softly approach.
In amongst the Prime Minister’s vision is the revelation that outdoor sports can return at the end of March, and that by May 17 there is a distinct possibility that fans will be allowed back at sporting events.
If that date sticks – and we have been here before remember as far as a premature return for fans is concerned, then up to 10,000 could attend the final round of Premier League fixtures. What a boost that could be for the likes of Manchester City, Leicester City, Fulham and Sheffield United, who will all be cheered on by home supporters in games they may just have to win to fulfil their objectives for the season.
Looking further afield, Johnson wants all restrictions to be lifted by June 21 – that falls slap bang in the middle of the rescheduled Euro 2020 event.
That will come too soon for England vs Scotland to be played at full capacity at Wembley Stadium on June 17 – what an explosion of sound that would be! – but there is hope that 10,000 will still be able to attend that awesome occasions.
And then comes the third round of group matches, with England taking on the Czech Republic in the capital on June 22 – in theory, Wembley could be packed to the rafters for that game, the two semi-finals it will also host and the final on July 11.
All of these dates are subject to change of course, but as things stand it could be an extraordinary summer for those lucky enough to have bagged Euro 2020 tickets.
Punters to Flock to Royal Ascot?
The timeline set out by the government is welcome news for Royal Ascot too.
Held behind closed doors in 2020, it seems increasingly likely that punters will be allowed to attend the tops-and-tails extravaganza in the summer.
Sadly, the June 21 lifting of restrictions will come too soon for a full capacity turnout, with the meeting set to be held from June 15-19, however under the proposed guidance some 10,000 people would be able to attend each day.
Sadly, the lifting of restrictions won’t come soon enough for two other bastions of the racing calendar. It has been confirmed that the Cheltenham Festival will unfortunately have to take place behind closed doors, while the Grand National will also suffer the same fate….unless the date for the Aintree extravaganza is changed.
That’s one radical proposal being put forward by John Baker, the former managing director at the Merseyside track. He believes a switch to April 12 – to coincide with the re-opening of betting shops – makes a tremendous amount of sense.
“We changed the time of the race, the start and the distance of the race and the fences all to help attract a bigger audience and make for a better race for the Grand National,” Baker said.
“So [moving the date] is something that I would say is possible. Whether there’s an appetite for it, I don’t know and wouldn’t be in a position to say.”