Fans Could Return To Stadiums For Sporting Events In The U.K. As Early As October, Boris Johnson Predicts
Fans in the United Kingdom could start returning to sports stadiums as early as October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday.
As BBC News reported, the sports industry has taken one of the biggest, and most visible hits from the coronavirus pandemic. Multiple leagues have seen their seasons postponed or canceled, and those that have resumed play have seen their seasons drastically shortened or rearranged.
And in an even more visible reminder of the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, those sports leagues that resumed play are doing so without fans in the stands, leading to scenes of players battling out on the field in front of empty seats.
However, in the United Kingdom, those days may be coming to an end in a matter of a few months. Prime Minister Johnson revealed Friday that, beginning August 1, a handful of smaller, lower-profile events will take place with fans present, as a series of pilot programs. If they’re successful, then by October fans could possibly be returning to stadiums in larger numbers.
However, Johnson was clear that even if the pilot program is successful, safety protocols will still be in place if or when fans are allowed to return to stadiums.
“These changes must be done in a COVID-secure way, subject to the successful outcome of pilots,” he said.
The four pilot events are: two exhibition cricket matches to be held July 26-27 in London; The World Snooker Championship beginning July 31 in Sheffield; and The Goodwood horse racing festival on August 1 in London.
The Goodwood event has been arranged so that 5,000 fans can attend. It remains unclear, as of this writing, how many fans will be allowed to attend the other two events.
At the pilot events, spectators will be expected to adhere to strict safety protocols. Fans who are experiencing symptoms, or who believe they may have been exposed to someone infected with the coronavirus, will be asked to stay home. They will be screened going into the event, they’ll be asked to maintain social distancing while seated, and hygiene facilities, such as handwashing stations, will be posted throughout the facilities.
“Although it will remain some time before venues are full to capacity, this is a major step in the right direction for the resumption of live spectator sport across the country,” Johnson said.
In the United States, some major and minor sports have resumed, without spectators in attendance. For example, Major League Soccer’s MLS Is Back Tournament is underway, with the entirety of the tournament being played at practice fields at Walt Disney World, without fans in attendance. Similarly, NASCAR has resumed racing, without fans in attendance.