Football fans are banned from stadiums all season, with doors already closed to rugby and racing as the government’s new six-month Covid approach paralyzes British sport.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced today that plans for fans to watch live sporting events in England from October 1 will be canceled. And with the UK’s Covid-19 alert going up to 4 meaning broadcast is ‘rising high or exponentially’, there will be months of misery for sports fans, with the country’s new restrictions expected to last six months .
That would exclude everyone except the last weeks of the football season. Today pilots with limited spectators at Premiership Rugby clubs Bath and Bristol were canceled, as were open race days at Newmarket Racecourse.
And in a new blow for sports fans, the new restrictions on pubs and hangouts, which must close their doors at 10pm under government curfews, could keep them out of the closings of big night football games.
The Premier League continues to claim their stadiums are safer than shops, pubs, restaurants and other public activities, but the grounds will be closed for months to come to support the fight against the growing number of coronavirus cases.
Premier League games could run without significant fuss all season under the new rules
Fans stuck in pubs or at home will be thrown out before the late games end
Premier League: We are safer than pubs, shops and restaurants
In a statement, the Premier League has expressed disappointment at the government’s decision not to allow fans to attend matches from October.
England’s top flight was previously intended for some supporters to return to the stadiums from next month, but those plans have now been put on hold after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement.
The Premier League is absolutely convinced that if fans were present, they would do so in a safe environment. The league says it would be ‘safe or safer’ for fans to go to football games than to shops, pubs and restaurants.
A statement today read: “ The Premier League is confident that, through League-wide guidelines and a code of conduct developed with scientific experts and approved by the Government’s Sports Ground Safety Authority, fans in stadiums are just as safe or even will be safer than in any other public activity currently permitted. This is already evident in other European competitions. ‘
Today MEP Steve Brine, a member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee, said fans “probably have to sacrifice this year.” The prime minister’s warning that the new restrictions will last for six months will run until 2021.
Mr Brine told talkSPORT: ‘As much as we love it, as much as we love to exercise, it is not essential and it is the social contact that we will probably have to sacrifice this year.
Sure there was an opportunity to get some fans back and in big football stadiums you can keep a pretty good distance socially from your best season ticket holders, but that’s not the point, it’s about getting to the ground and all the different services out there. It’s the social interaction that, as much as we love it, isn’t essential. ‘
But there are also likely to be problems in pubs showing the games behind closed doors, with fans facing them being kicked out prematurely to adhere to the new curfew rules.
Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Wolves in Molineux on Monday evening, which started at 8:15 pm, ended at 10:08 pm due to extra time. Liverpool’s big game against Arsenal on Monday also starts at 8.15 p.m. and ends after 10 p.m.
But there are bigger concerns for smaller clubs and sports without the same big financial support.
Mr Brine added: ‘I think it was always inevitable that there would be a pause here as virus statistics went in the wrong direction, but there is no doubt that the government should think about helping lower league football clubs to save themselves. will have to intervene. ‘
The Premier League estimates that football is losing £ 100 million a month. While that can be accommodated in the top flight, the lower leagues and other sports are struggling to make ends meet.
The National League season may not start as planned on Oct. 3 if supporters are unable to attend – with further talks scheduled at a board meeting on Thursday.
Many clubs cannot afford to play without fans and will also struggle to fund players’ wages when the government’s leave scheme ends in October.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the changes that have eroded sports fans today
Players have been on leave since their seasons were shut down in March, with the National League not restarting, aside from their end-of-season playoffs.
Some teams are even believed to support the option of an ‘opt-out’ for this season as players, coaching staff and administrators face unemployment.
In his speech to the House of Commons, the prime minister accepted that the lack of fans lower down the sports pyramid would cause major problems.
“We will not be able to do this as of October 1 and I recognize the implications for our sports clubs, which shape the life and soul of our communities,” he said.
“The chancellor and the culture secretary are working hard on what we can do now to support them.”
However, the government’s stance on fans is at odds with much of Europe – a point the Premier League made in their statement today.
Supporters returned to the San Siro in Italy’s Serie A last night when 1,000 people watched AC Milan beat Bologna. There were also considerable crowds in France and Germany. On Thursday evening, more than 20,000 people will attend the UEFA Super Cup final between Bayern Munich and Seville in Budapest.
A crowd of 1,000 watched AC Milan last night, but there will be no similar scenes here
The racecourses are closed to fans despite a series of pilot events that are considered a success
Bayern v Sevilla to continue with 20,000 fans
The UEFA Super Cup between Bayern Munich and Seville could become the ‘superspreader event’ of football, Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Soder fears.
Thursday’s match between Champions League and Europa League winners will take place at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, with around 20,000 fans watching the match live, despite being in the center of a coronavirus hotspot.
It will be the most attended event in world sport since Covid-19 closed nearly all public events in Europe in March.
Soder warned yesterday: ‘My stomach hurts when I think about the Super Cup. Budapest is a risk area. There are a lot of infections and we have to be very, very careful. ‘
But here, sports are considered non-essential, and issues with fans traveling to get to games and use other services mean crowds cannot return.
Despite talks with the government, it is unlikely to turn around.
Instead, the government will push the Premier League and EFL to agree on a bailout later in the day. The amount of summer spending on transfers by Premier League clubs has not gone unnoticed in Westminster.
The move did not go well for sports fans.
A statement from the Football Supporters’ Association said today: “The FSA has written to the government to emphasize the importance of getting fans back into games.
“Feedback from our members at test events has confirmed that they were highly compliant with all health and safety measures in place, and that they felt safer in games than in many other social situations.
Having fans at matches is of course not only important for the lives of supporters, it is also crucial for the survival of so many clubs that play a vital role in their community.
“A combination of income on the ground and government support is urgently needed to keep clubs running. The government must listen to fans and football clubs. ‘
Other sports have similar concerns. Amy Starkey, who runs Newmarket for Jockey Club Raceourses, told the BBC: ‘Sadly it now looks like we won’t have any visitors to a race day during our 2020 Flat season.’
But major sporting events are unlikely to be called off and will instead continue behind closed doors.
Anthony Joshua’s fight with Kubrat Pulev will continue this year regardless of the announcement that fans will not be able to return to sporting events from October.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn had been working in hopes that the heavyweight world title fight would take place at The O2 on December 12 in front of more than 5,000 spectators as part of the phased reintegration of crowds into live sports.
However, it will now have to be staged in front of zero fans after confirmation that major events will remain closed due to the increase in coronavirus cases.