The British government postponed plans for the controlled return of fans into sports stadiums as part of new restrictions announced on Tuesday to tackle a second wave of COVID-19.
The government had been planning to allow 25-33% capacities from Oct. 1, giving sports a funding boost after months of empty stadiums.
“We have to acknowledge that the spread of the virus is now affecting our ability to reopen business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament.
“So we will not be able to do this from the first of October.
“I recognise the implications for our sports clubs which are the life and soul of our communities and… the chancellor and culture secretary are working urgently on what we can do now to support them.”
Senior cabinet minister Michael Gove had earlier told the BBC that, regarding the return of spectators, the government was looking into “how we can for the moment pause that programme”.
“We’ve been piloting some open air venues and we do want to be able in due course to allow people to return to watch football and other sporting events but it is the case that we just need to be cautious at the moment,” he added.
“I think a mass reopening at this stage wouldn’t be appropriate.”
Sports’ governing bodies appeared resigned to the postponement already and were preparing a request for more financial help.
The Rugby Football Union had hoped to have around 20,000 fans at Twickenham for England’s game against the Barbarians on Oct. 25 but have now suspended ticket sales.
Although the risk of spreading the virus sitting at outdoor stadiums is considered relatively low, the bigger concern is the amount of time crowds will be close together travelling to and from events, and entering the stadiums and refreshment areas.
“The virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors but then again it’s in the nature of sporting events that there’s a lot of mingling,” Gove said.