Fans could be able to return to stadiums in England from October, says Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Pilots will take place from 1 August but any stadium reopenings would be subject to coronavirus guidelines.
Some sports, including football and cricket, have resumed behind closed doors after the Covid-19 lockdown.
“We will pilot larger gatherings in venues like sports stadiums with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn,” said Johnson on Friday.
“From October, we intend to bring back audiences in stadiums.
“Again, these changes must be done in a COVID-secure way, subject to the successful outcome of pilots.”
The pilot projects will be held at:
- Two men’s county cricket friendly matches – including Surrey v Middlesex at The Oval on 26-27 July;
- The World Snooker Championship at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre from 31 July;
- The Goodwood horse racing festival – known as Glorious Goodwood – on 1 August.
The Racecourse Association said the Goodwood event has been designed for up to 5,000 people, plus participants.
“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,” said Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston.
“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 stadiums.
“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.”
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport also said further pilot events are likely to be held in other sports.
In order for fans to return to stadiums, the government has outlined operating guidelines that state:
- Fans must agree to a new code of behaviour that includes not attending if they potentially have symptoms of coronavirus or have been exposed to a person who has tested positive;
- Social distancing must be observed in seating arrangements;
- Crowd management plans should be in place, including the controlled entry and exit of fans and one-way systems;
- Additional hygiene facilities should be installed inside venues, particularly at entrances and exits;
- Screening procedures should be considered at stadia entrances.
Domestic competitive sport in England resumed on 1 June for the first time since mid-March, with football’s Premier League and English Football League getting back underway on 17 and 20 June respectively.
International cricket, golf, horse racing and snooker are among the other sports to have resumed.
In Scotland, no date has yet been set for fans returning to stadiums. Now in phase three of the Scottish government’s route out of lockdown, the Premiership – football’s top flight – will begin on 1 August behind closed doors.
The second-tier Scottish Championship and Leagues One and Two kick off a reduced, 27-game season on 17 October, the same weekend as the first Old Firm derby between Celtic and Rangers of the 2020-21 campaign.
The Scottish government has held talks with Scottish Rugby about using Murrayfield as a test venue, where fans could return but be physically distanced.
More than 45,000 people in the UK have died with coronavirus, while there have been more than 292,000 confirmed cases.
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