KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Hopes of a progressive return of UK sports fans to live events have been dashed by the latest government U-turn.

The number who can attend a reduced number of pilot events has been trimmed to 1,000 in light of the increase in the number of positive coronavirus cases.

Football, rugby, cricket and snooker has all been hoping for clearance to extend their operations. Not now. A decision on whether fans can return to stadia socially distanced will be taken on October 1.

Organised grassroots sport will be able to continue in a Covid-secure way to help people stay fit and healthy. This includes organised team sports, Parkrun and exercise classes in gyms and leisure centres.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “In light of increasing transmission rates, the Government is reviewing the proposed sports and business events pilots ahead of the 1 October and we will unfortunately need to scale some back.

“We know fans and audiences are eager to return, and jobs depend on this too, so work continues around the clock on the moonshot project with the ambition of having audiences back much closer to normal by Christmas, if safe to do so.”

Scientific advice

The government announced the latest Covid-secure sporting events to pilot the safe return of spectators on August 26 but this was always dependent on scientific and medical advice.

Clear guidance has been produced in consultation with the Sports Ground Safety Authority to set out the strict measures that test events must follow to limit the spread of coronavirus. This includes upholding social distancing in queues, minimising the risk of any pinch points or crowding and recording people’s data to assist NHS Test and Trace.

Premier League clubs have reacted differently in terms of season tickets.  Some clubs have not yet put season tickets on sale. These include Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Newcastle. Tottenham are registering season ticket reservation applications.

Other clubs plan a ballot scheme among season ticket holders when a limited number of fans are allowed to return. These include Arsenal, Leicester, West Ham and Brighton.

The closed-doors order means all 28 Premier games in September will be shown on live television among Sky, BT Sport, Amazon and BBC.

Premier League ceo Richard Masters has estimated that clubs stand to lose £547m in revenue if they are unable to increase capacity beyond the socially-distanced levels agreed for October 1 onwards for the whole of the new season, which on average limit clubs to 25 per cent.

Test events

The following test events are able to continue with an audience capped at no more than 1,000 people, subject to locations not having local prevalence concerns:

Football

12 September, Dagenham – West Ham v Arsenal (Women’s Super League Fixture)

12 September, Cambridge United v Carlisle United (EFL League Two)

27 September, Wembley – Non-League Finals Day (FA Vase and FA Trophy)

Rugby Union

14 September – Gloucester v Harlequins

Horse Racing

21 September – Warwick

24-26 September – Newmarket, Cambridgeshire

Cricket

16 September – Yorkshire vs Durham (T20)

18 September – Lancashire vs Durham (T20)

18 September – Hampshire vs Surrey (T20)

19 September – Western Storm vs Sunrisers (Women’s T20)

Basketball

18 September, Eagles Community Arena, Newcastle

Speedway

26 September, Foxhall Stadium, Ipswich

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