English summer of sport given green light as quarantine restrictions eased

Max Verstappen driving the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing car during its 2020 season launch at Silverstone Circuit (by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has announced agreements have been brokered that will allow select international sporting events to take place in England amid Covid-19, stating the “British summer of sport is back on”.

The announcement also incorporates work on some of the biggest film and television productions. At present, the majority of travellers to the UK must quarantine for two weeks, but it was announced last week that from July 10 people arriving in England from dozens of countries judged to be “low risk” will not have to isolate.

However, although ‘air bridge’ agreements were announced with a total of 73 countries, they did not cover top sporting nations such as the US, China and Portugal. Dowden’s announcement yesterday (Sunday) means that sports stars and their support teams will be exempt from quarantine, where they are deemed essential to the event in question.

The government said sporting authorities and event organisers will need to follow Covid-secure guidance and put in place “stringent protocols” to ensure that they have a minimal impact on public health. Exempted individuals will live and work in controlled “bubbled” environments behind closed doors.

The measures for sporting events in England mean that Silverstone, in the year of the 70th anniversary of the British Grand Prix, will be able to stage the fourth and fifth rounds of the revised 2020 Formula 1 season on August 2 and 9.

The news also provides the official green light for a summer of international cricket, with the West Indies having been in ‘bubble’ conditions ahead of the start of the first Test against England at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on Wednesday.

Premier League clubs Manchester City, Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers are also set to be allowed to play their second leg Round of 16 Uefa Champions League and Europa League matches at home behind closed doors, subject to European football’s governing body finalising its plans for the ties.

The government also said the agreements cover the likes of the British Masters golf tournament under the European Tour’s return to action, and the rescheduled World Snooker Championship. Other major darts, horse racing and other sporting events are expected to follow.

Exemptions will be limited to those essential to staging these events, including the sports stars, event officials, coaches, medics, mechanics and incoming members of the media.

Dowden said the news marks “a further boost” to the national recovery.