Fans could return to sports stadiums in October, says British PM Johnson

London (AFP)

Fans could return to sports stadiums in October after a series of test events that will start later this month, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday.

Mass gatherings have been banned since March as part of social-distancing measures brought in to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Premier League matches have been played in empty stadiums
Premier League matches have been played in empty stadiums Paul ELLIS POOL/AFP/File

But as Johnson set out the next stage of the recovery road map for England, he said the government was working towards a return of spectators.

“We will pilot larger gatherings in venues such as sports stadia with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn,” he said at a Downing Street briefing on Friday.

“From October we intend to bring back audiences in stadia and allow conferences and other business events to recommence,” he added.

The World Snooker Championship, the Glorious Goodwood horse racing festival and two county cricket friendly matches will be among pilot events, starting later this month.

The government said the “events have been carefully selected to represent a range of sports and indoor and outdoor spectator environments”.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said he recognised that for many sports, fans were their “lifeblood”.

“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,” he said.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has previously said top-flight clubs are keen to act as “test pilots” for any experiments around a phased reopening of stadiums.

Depending on how many fans are allowed back, it could be a major boost to the finances of clubs in the English Football League, who rely heavily on matchday revenue.

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