Spectators will not be able to return to sporting venues in England until May 17 at the earliest, the Government has said.
The news formed part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ‘road map’ for the easing of lockdown restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus, which was announced in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.
With the exception of any approved trial events, the news rules out the possibility of fans attending any further regular-season matches in the EFL, and all but the final round of Premier League games in the 2020-21 season.
But it does leave open the possibility of spectators returning to events over the summer, such as Euro 2020, Wimbledon, cricket internationals and county matches, depending on whether the conditions for easing restrictions have been met by May 17.
Indoor events will be capped at 50 per cent capacity or 1,000, whichever is lower, and for outdoor events this will be 50 per cent capacity or 4,000, whichever is lower.
The road map includes special provision for large, outdoor, seated venues where crowds can be safely distributed, allowing up to 10,000 people or 25 per cent of total seated capacity, whichever is lower.
Pilots will also run to examine how such events can take place without the need for social distancing using other mitigations such as testing, the Government said.
The road map set out the lifting of restrictions in four steps. At each one, the success of the vaccine rollout, vaccine efficacy, the presence of variants and infection rates will be measured before deciding whether to take the next step.
The Prime Minister said there would be a minimum five-week gap between each step.
The easing of restrictions will happen on a nationwide, rather than a regional, basis.
Step 2 introduces more changes
In the second part of step one – not before March 29 – organised outdoor sports for children and adults can return, and outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts can reopen.
At step two, which would be from April 12 at the earliest, use of indoor leisure facilities such as gyms for individuals or household groups will be possible.
All children will be able to attend any indoor children’s activity in step two, including sport, regardless of circumstance, the Government’s road map documents said.
Alongside the partial reopening of sports venues at step three, organised indoor adult sport will be possible.
Pilot events for the return of spectators are expected to begin as part of the Government’s Event Research Programme from April.
These will use “enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes and reduced social distancing to evaluate the outcomes”.
Findings from pilots across the sport and cultural sectors will be brought together to develop a “consistent approach” to removing capacity limits as part of step four – which would start no earlier than June 21.