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Elite sports will pilot return of spectators

Mark Moran
17 July 2020
The government hopes pilots will pave the way to sports venue opening to spectators
The government hopes pilots will pave the way to sports venue opening to spectators

 

The government has announced that a number of sporting events will be used to pilot the safe return of spectators with a view to reopen competition venues for sports fans, with social distancing measures in place, from October 2020.

The events have been selected to represent a range of sports and indoor and outdoor spectator environments. They are expected to include two men’s county cricket friendly matches – such as Surrey v Middlesex at The Oval on 26-27 July – the World Snooker Championship at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre from 31 July, and the Glorious Goodwood horse racing festival on 1 August.

There are also likely to be further pilot events for other sports, in order to build up to and prepare for the full, socially distanced return of sporting events from 1 October 2020.

The guidance has been developed with UK Sport and in close consultation with the Deputy Chief Medical Officers of England, Public Health England, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, Police and medical representatives across Olympic, Paralympic and professional sports governing bodies. It is designed for competition delivery partners and venue operators and marks the final piece of government guidance for the resumption of elite sport. The guidance will outline the conditions, facilities and processes that will need to be implemented for the safe return of spectators to competitive sporting events, including tight restrictions on numbers in the short-term.

Guidance outlining the licensing obligations for sports stadia and how venue operators must calculate safe capacities in line with social distancing restrictions would be published by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said: “For months millions of us have felt the void of being unable to go to the match to support our team or attend a top-class sporting event. So I am pleased that we are now able to move forward with a plan to help venues safely reopen their doors to fans.

“I recognise that not every sport, team or club has the benefit of huge commercial revenue, and it is often their dedicated fans that are the lifeblood which helps keep them going. By working closely with sports and medical experts, these pilots will help ensure the safe return of fans to stadia.”

A phased approach to easing restrictions on social gatherings was outlined in the Prime Minister’s roadmap for easing lockdown. The pilot sports events will provide the opportunity to stress-test the government’s ‘Stage 5’ guidance, on the return of fans to elite sports events.

The Stage 5 guidance states that the following operating standards must be in place for spectators until further notice:

  • Prior to any ticket purchase, competition delivery partners should provide spectators with information on the steps being implemented to minimise the risk of COVID-19, including any modifications being made to the venue.
  • Spectators must agree to a new code of behaviour obliging them to take full responsibility for themselves and others by not attending if they have any symptoms or have potentially been exposed to someone with COVID-19.  Anyone attending an event will also be advised to consider if they are putting themselves at higher risk because of their general state of health or any other risk factors.
  • Carefully controlled bookings should be in place, so that social distancing is observed in seating arrangements, alongside a minimising of the numbers of tickets sold to a predefined safe capacity, in accordance with regulator guidance.
  • Spectators must be supported to avoid public transport, including through parking facilities, bike and walking routes. However a transport management plan with local and national providers should be in place to increase service frequency, where needed.
  • A crowd management plan should be in place, incorporating the controlled entry and exit of spectators (including staggering entry times), and one-way systems inside the venue to maintain social distancing and minimise the risk of crowding.
  • Additional hygiene facilities, such as hand washing and sanitiser stations, should be provided, particularly at entry and exit points to the competition venue and in seating/standing areas.
  • Screens or barriers should be used to separate people from each other when social distancing cannot be maintained for catering and retail, such as buying programmes and merchandise, or betting.
  • Signage and floor markings should be developed both inside and outside competition venues to enforce social distancing, seating plans, one-way systems and queuing requirements.
  • Spectator medical requirements should be considered, such as additional isolation rooms, and screening when entering the competition venue.

Sports venues have been closed to spectators since lockdown measures were implemented on 23 March 2020. However in recent weeks certain elite sports have resumed behind closed doors, such as Premier League and Championship football, international cricket and horse racing.

Sport is a devolved matter and this guidance is applicable to elite sports in England. Those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should refer to guidance from the devolved administrations.

 
 
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