The UK government has given permission for the Premier League and other professional sports to resume behind closed doors from June 1, providing its five tests on controlling the coronavirus are met.
On Monday, the government published a 60-page-document entitled ‘Our Plan to Rebuild’, detailing how lockdown measures will gradually be eased in England.
Step two of the plan – which will not be allowed to start before June 1 – includes “permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact”.
However, the document states that a resumption of sport will only be possible if sufficient progress is made in limiting the spread of the virus from between now and then. Organisations are advised to “prepare accordingly” for any reopening however any progress would be dependent on a “sustained and consistent fall” in the daily death rate, as well as the rate of infection decreasing to “manageable levels”.
It is less clear when supporters will be able to return to venues, with the guidelines recognising the return of sport in front of a crowd “may only be fully possible significantly later depending on the reduction in numbers of infections”.
Stage three of the plan mentions the reopening of venues such as cinemas and hairdressers after July 4 but the document also states, “Some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to reopen safely at this point, or may be able to open safely only in part.”
Further guidance on the return of elite sport is soon expected from a working group led by the UK Sport chief executive, Sally Munday.
Elite football in Britain has been suspended since March 13 due to the coronavirus outbreak; the Premier League continues to plan for a June 8 return with 92 fixtures left to play.
Premier League clubs held a four-hour meeting on Monday to discuss the latest lockdown guidance, with further meetings between players and managers set to follow this week.
If the ‘Project Restart’ plan is accepted by the required 14 teams, matches are expected to be played at neutral venues around the country.
Premiership Rugby is aiming for a resumption in early July – with nine rounds remaining -while Formula 1 is hoping to race at Silverstone on 19 and 26 July.
Following a decision by the England and Wales Cricket Board, no cricket will be played until at least July 1.