Spectators will not be able to return to sporting venues in England until 17 May at the earliest, the government has announced. The news formed part of Boris Johnson’s “road map” for the easing of lockdown restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus.
With the exception of any approved trial events, the news rules out the possibility of fans attending any further regular-season matches in the Football League, and all but the final round of Premier League games in the 2020-21 season.
However, it does leave open the possibility of spectators returning to events over the summer, such as Euro 2020, Wimbledon, cricket internationals and county matches, depending on whether the conditions for easing restrictions have been met by 17 May.
Up to 2,000 spectators had been able to return to games in England for a brief time last year and before the third national lockdown was initiated.
Indoor events will be capped at 50% or 1,000, whichever is lower, and for outdoor events this will be 50% capacity or 4,000, whichever is lower. The road map includes special provision for large, outdoor, seated venues where crowds can be safely distributed, allowing up to 10,000 people or 25% of total seated capacity, whichever is lower. Pilots will also run to examine how such events can take place without the need for social distancing using other mitigations such as testing.
The road map sets out the lifting of restrictions in four steps. At each stage the success of the vaccine rollout, vaccine efficacy, the presence of variants and infection rates will be measured before deciding whether to take the next step.
The prime minister said there would be a minimum five-week gap between each step. The easing of restrictions will happen on a nationwide, rather than regional, basis.
In the second part of step one – not before 29 March – organised outdoor sports for children and adults can return, and outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts can reopen. At step two, which would be from 12 April at the earliest, use of indoor leisure facilities such as gyms for individuals or household groups will be possible.
All children will be able to attend any indoor children’s activity in step two, including sport, regardless of circumstance, the government’s road map documents said.
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