Pilot matches to test the safe return of spectators at UK sports events will resume from August 15 (tomorrow), the UK government has announced, with a view to allowing their widespread return from October onwards.
The final of the 2020 World Snooker Championship in Sheffield will be one of the first test events to allow for limited numbers of fans, with more pilot events to follow.
In late July, the UK government abandoned a series of pilot events in the first two weeks of August to test the feasibility of re-opening venues to spectators and extended a ban on mass gathering for a further two weeks following a spike in Covid-19 infection rates.
But it said in a statement last night: “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 1 October.”
The World Snooker Championship was one of several events to be affected by the government’s decision to delay the original pilot programme, having started its first day with small numbers of fans before abruptly having to switch to a closed-doors event.
Other proposed pilot events had been the Glorious Goodwood racing festival and two Bob Willis Trophy cricket matches between Warwickshire and Worcestershire and Surrey and Middlesex.
For the match between Surrey and Middlesex, Surrey Cricket Club had planned to provide spectators with Bluetooth tracking ‘fobs’ to manage social distancing and control crowd capacity as part of a technology study backed by the Department for Culture Media and Sport. It is not clear at this stage if the DCMS plans to resume the study in the second series of pilot matches.
The plans for the resumption of the pilot sports events were laid out in the UK government’s ‘roadmap to recovery’ which also strengthened enforcement measures for breaches of social distancing measures and announced fines for repeatedly flouting face covering rules.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson said in a statement yesterday (Thursday): “Today, we are able to announce some further changes which will allow more people to return to work and the public to get back to more of the things they have missed.
“However, as I have always said, we will not hesitate to put on the brakes if required, or to continue to implement local measures to help to control the spread of the virus.”