The prime minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, has confirmed during his press briefing on Wednesday that plans for fans to return to sports stadiums from 1 October are to be reviewed.
He also confirmed that gatherings of more than six people will be illegal from Monday adding that this rule would not apply to competitive sports teams.
A pilot scheme to have spectators for horse racing at Doncaster this week was cancelled by the local council on Wednesday, with plans to have 6,000 fans in attendance for Saturday’s meeting shelved.
Stringent measures are being put in place going forward as a limited number of spectators were allowed to see the World Snooker Championships back in August.
Test events remain in place, however, including the West Ham v Arsenal Women’s Super League fixture on 12 September and the FA Vase and FA Trophy finals day on 27 September will be limited to 1,000 spectators.
The Prime Minister says: “We will have to revise plans and review our intention to have fans return to stadiums – that doesn’t mean we are abandoning it completely, we just need to review it.”
Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, posted a statement on Twitter following the Prime Minister’s press conference, maintaining the government was continuing to “plan for the best.”
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“Further to the PM’s announcement we are reviewing the list of proposed sports pilots ahead of 1 Oct, in light of the increased number of cases. Details of changes will be announced shortly,” Dowden says.
“We are keeping under review further easements proposed from 1 Oct but no changes have been announced today – and we continue to plan for the best.
“As I said on Sunday and the PM confirmed today, work continues round the clock on the moonshot project with the ambition of having audiences back much closer to normal by Christmas.”
Richard Masters, Premier League chief executive, says the Premier League is ready to work with the government to ensure the safe return of fans to stadiums as clubs prepare themselves for more financial losses during the 2020/21 season, which begins on Saturday.
Over £700m was recorded in losses for top-flight teams during the suspension for coronavirus measures, in which no fans were able to attend games and matchday revenues were wiped out.
“We are ready, willing and able to be ambitious with our testing as soon as we are able to open our turnstiles,” Masters told Sky Sports. “Using the current guidelines we’ll be about a quarter full and we want to work overtime because the fans are the key missing ingredient from the thing.
“Not having fans in the stadium has serious financial repercussions, not just in the Premier League but throughout football. Every Premier League match contributes around £20m to the local and national economy, so we want to play our part in supporting that national effort.
“There’s a perception that the Premier League can continue to sustain losses for a long period of time but it has been very painful for clubs and there are more challenges ahead.
“Last season we lost circa £700m and next season, matchday revenue is about that number again, so the sooner we can get fans back into stadiums the sooner we can reduce that number.”
Masters said the Premier League has three main objectives – the “big challenge” of ensuring 380 matches finish on time this season, getting fans back into full stadia, and returning the Premier League economy to full health.