A government minister has warned of a challenging time ahead for sport as he confirmed plans to welcome fans back into stadiums have been scrapped.
It had previously been hoped that fans could return to limited-capacity football grounds from October 1, with stadia being 25 to 33 per cent full.
Yet tighter restrictions due to a spike in coronavirus cases has pushed that back.
Michael Gove confirmed that the programme of welcoming fans back to matches has been paused.
“It was the case that we were looking at a staged programme of more people returning,” Gove told BBC News.
“It wasn’t the case that we’d have stadiums thronged with fans.
“We’re looking for the moment at how we can pause that programme.
“What we do want to do is ensure that, as and when circumstances allow, we get more people back because the virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors.
“But, again, it’s in the nature of major sporting events that there’s a lot of mingling.
“People look back at the beginning of the pandemic and look at some of the major sporting events asking the question of why they were allowed to go ahead.
“One of the things we must do now, whatever the wisdom of the decisions made then, is to look at sporting events now with caution.
“We also recognise sport is a vital part of this nation and we’re looking at everything we can do to support our athletes and clubs through what will be a challenging time.”
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A report in the Times claims sport leaders foresaw the announcement coming and have asked the prime minister for a £15bn rescue package – similar to that announced in July for the arts and culture sector.
Stoke City are planning to release an update tomorrow afternoon after a meeting with the local authority’s Safety Advisory Group and officials from Public Health England. The club had drawn up a plan for an innovative 11-game season ticket to help cope with demand vastly outstripping supply.
The club is missing out on more a quarter of a million pounds per game while matches continue to be played behind closed doors.
With the chief medical and scientific advisers for the government warning the new coronavirus measures are likely to last for six months, many are preparing for behind closed doors rules on stadiums being in place for the rest of the year.
A coalition of 100 sport bodies, including the Football Association, Rugby Football Association, England and Wales cricket board, Lawn Tennis Association, Rugby Football League and many more have written to the prime minister asking for financial support.
According to the report, the letter says: “To play our fullest role, we must survive and stabilise. To do this, we require a comprehensive support package for the sport and physical sector to aid its recovery. This package must combine investment, tax incentives and regulatory reform.”
Boris Johnson is expected to announce further restrictions from as early as today.