Return of fans to elite sport 'paused', say Government

Rise in COVID-19 cases means October 1 plan on hold

Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 9:43 am
Updated Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 9:48 am
Elite sport is currently being payed behind closed doors. Photo: Getty Images

The return of fans to elite sport has been put on hold, it has been announced.

Speaking to BBC breakfast, cabinet minister Michael Gove confirmed that proposals to begin a staggered return for supporters - set to begin from October 1 - has been 'paused' due to recent rise in COVID-19 cases.

The term elite sport covers football from the Premier League to step two of the National League system - the National League North and South.

Football from step three and below is not classes as elite sport and limited numbers of supporters have so far been allowed to attend matches, following social distancing guidelines.

It is not yet clear whether this will be allowed to continue.

"It was the case that we were looking at a staged programme of more people returning. It wasn't going to be the case that we had stadiums thronged with fans," Mr Gove said.

"We're looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme. But what we do want to do is to make sure that as and when circumstances allow, get more people back.

"The virus is less likely to spread indoors rather than outdoors, but it's in the nature of major sporting events that there's a lot of mingling."

At the beginning of the pandemic, huge sporting events such as the Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool's Champions League clash against Atletico Madrid at Anfield, were given the green light to go ahead as usual.

Mr Gove added: "People look back now at the beginning of the pandemic and some of the major sporting events then and ask the question 'why were they allowed to go ahead?'

"Well, one of the things we must do now, whatever the wisdom of decisions made then, is to look at sporting events now with caution.

"We also recognise sports a vital part of the life of this nation and we're looking at everything we can do in order to support our athletes, our great clubs, through what will be challenging times."