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Premier League fans could return in October as new roadmap revealed

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says crowds could return to the Premier League in October

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says crowds could return to the Premier League in October

PA

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says crowds could return to the Premier League in October

Crowds could be able to return to sports stadiums in England as early as October, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

Mass gatherings at sports grounds have been banned since March as part of social distancing measures brought in to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

But as Johnson set out the next stage of the recovery road map, he said the government were working towards crowds returning after some test events.

"We will pilot larger gatherings in venues such as sports stadia with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn," he said at a Downing Street briefing on Friday.

"All of these measures, for August 1, should be done in a Covid-secure way.

"From October we intend to bring back audiences in stadia and allow conferences and other business events to recommence, again these changes must be done in a Covid-secure way subject to the successful outcome of pilots."

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has previously said top-flight clubs are keen to act as "test pilots" for any experiments around a phased reopening of stadiums.

He has said that football will not be "back with a capital B" until crowds return.

Depending on how many fans are allowed back, it could be a major boost to the finances of clubs in the English Football League who rely heavily on matchday revenue.

The upcoming World Snooker Championships in Sheffield, the Glorious Goodwood horse racing festival and two men's county cricket friendly matches are set to be among the pilot events.

The British government said the "events have been carefully selected to represent a range of sports and indoor and outdoor spectator environments".

The World Snooker Championships begin on July 31 at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, while Surrey's friendly with Middlesex on July 26 and 27 has also been earmarked, as has Goodwood, which starts on August 1.

A statement from the British Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the test events were taking place in order "to build up to and prepare for the full, socially distanced return of sporting events from October 1, 2020".

British 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.

"Although it will remain some time before venues are full to capacity, this is a major step in the right direction for the resumption of live spectator sport across the country."

Attendance at sporting events for the foreseeable future will be subject to a number of strict conditions.

These include venues being ordered to provide information on measures being taken to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 infection, a code of behaviour for spectators advising them to take a responsible approach, such as staying away if suffering from any symptoms of the virus, careful control of seat bookings to ensure social distancing is observed, providing alternatives to spectators to help them avoid using public transport and providing additional hygiene facilities.

PA Media