CoronaVirus

Johnson announces ‘review’ of plans to reopen stadiums, putting October 1 return of fans on rocks

Boris Johnson has announced that a ‘review’ of plans to re-open stadiums for sport fans is set to take place in a huge blow to fans hopeful of a return to grounds next month.

The Prime Minister was speaking on Wednesday in a press conference on new Covid-19 restrictions in England following a rise in cases in the country.

And he confirmed that a review will now occur, putting the return date of October 1 for fans on hold, but Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has warned they will face a £700million loss without any crowds for the upcoming season. 

Boris Johnson has announced a 'review' of plans to re-open stadiums for sport fans in October

Boris Johnson has announced a ‘review’ of plans to re-open stadiums for sport fans in October

The news will come as a bitter blow to supporters who had hoped to go to games in October

The news will come as a bitter blow to supporters who had hoped to go to games in October

‘At the present time we must also I am afraid revise plans to pilot larger audiences in venues later this month and review our intention to return audiences to stadiums and conference centres from October 1,’ Mr Johnson said.

‘But that doesn’t mean we are going to scrap the programme entirely, we are just going to have to review it and abridge it and the Culture Secretary will say more about that shortly.’

Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, posted a statement on Twitter following the Prime Minister’s press conference, maintaining the government were continuing to ‘plan for the best.’

‘Further to the PM’s announcement we are reviewing the list of proposed sports pilots ahead of 1 Oct, in light of the increased number of cases. Details of changes will be announced shortly,’ Dowden said on Twitter.

But Premier League chief executive Richard Masters warns they will lose £700m with no fans

But Premier League chief executive Richard Masters warns they will lose £700m with no fans

‘We are keeping under review further easements proposed from 1 Oct but no changes have been announced today – and we continue to plan for the best.

‘As I said on Sunday and the PM confirmed today, work continues round the clock on the moonshot project with the ambition of having audiences back much closer to normal by Christmas.’

Despite the latest coronavirus developments, Masters and the Premier League have said it is ‘absolutely critical’ fans are allowed inside stadiums as soon as possible because games behind closed doors ‘cannot go on forever’. 

‘We have to get back to fans inside stadia as quickly as possible – that’s the big thing that’s missing, economic or otherwise – we need fans back inside stadiums for all sorts of reasons and it’s the number one priority,’ Masters told BBC Sport.

‘It’s not just the loss of matchday revenue. Every Premier League match on average generates about £20m for the economy both local and national so we want to play our part in helping the economy to recover as well.

‘I think perhaps there is a perception the Premier League economy can withstand just about anything, but if you do lose £700m out of a planned budget it’s going to affect things and clubs have had to make some very difficult decisions.

‘That is why it is important we focus on those three key objectives and obviously everyone hopes that from next season we can return to full normality, but it’s a huge challenge going forward.’

Fans had already been fearing the worst when it was announced that from Monday onwards, it will be illegal for to assemble in groups of seven or more anywhere in England, whether indoors or out.

Masters admitted the league and its clubs can ill-afford to play behind closed doors forever

Masters admitted the league and its clubs can ill-afford to play behind closed doors forever

That was already set to have a huge knock-on effect for sporting events that were banking on getting fans back into stadiums by early October, but Johnson’s latest statements have confirmed more bad news for hopeful supporters.

Pilot events which have already been arranged to test the safe return of spectators will be limited to a maximum of 1,000 people with social distancing measures in place. 

Organised team sport will proceed, following the recent increase in infections, however plans for the anticipated return of fans to grounds from the start of October will now be reviewed.

Pilot events such as Brighton's friendly against Chelsea will be limited to 1,000 people

Pilot events such as Brighton’s friendly against Chelsea will be limited to 1,000 people 

Up until this week, many sports, including football, have been holding test pilot events in an attempt to get fans back into grounds.

Brighton welcomed 2,500 fans into the Amex Stadium for their friendly with Chelsea last month, while sports like snooker and rugby have also had spectators attend.

Horse racing is also looking to make the transition back but and the crowd pilot at Doncaster on Wednesday will still go ahead as normal where over 3,000 paying spectators will be allowed in to watch the action. 


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